This week, I was presented with a powerful teachable moment and I dropped the ball. A student said something and I was so stunned that I just stood there. I needed words that I didn’t have.
I had commented to the student that I was surprised another teacher had commented that she wanted him to speak up more in class. I was surprised because he didn’t show any reluctance in my class. He was always ready to jump in with his thoughts. He looked down at the floor for a minute and then this is what he said. “In that class, I don’t want to make a mistake in front of everyone. The questions have an answer and you are either right or you are wrong. In your class, there’s not just one answer and it’s OK to make a mistake. We learn from our mistakes. It feels safe.” I looked at him and after a long pause, I said “I’m glad you feel safe in here.”
I’m glad that he feels safe in my class, but I feel like I let him down. I didn’t have any wisdom. I still don’t. I want to tell him to be brave, to be fearless. I can’t, though. I’ve seen too many scars from the things kids say to each other.
Maybe I should have told him to believe in himself. Maybe I should have told him that I believe in him. Maybe I should have told him a thousand things. I just don’t know what the right truth was for that moment. I should have said more, but I still don’t know what it should have been.