HOW TEACHERS' WORDS CAN HELP OR HARM OUR TEENS

I dropped my son off in school and wished him luck for a final paper he was taking that morning. We were a few minutes late for school. He walks in feeling confident, it's a challenging subject for him, the paper that he was sitting for that day, but he has worked harder for it than he ever has. It's the final paper for that particular subject for his entire school life. A lot was riding on that paper.


He bumps into a teacher, and she asks him why he was late and so he explained himself, which then she proceeded to ask him - 'Do you think you're going to pass the exam?'


I mean, even for me - what the hell kind of question was that? It's an insult in my opinion.


That confidence that my son had walking into school just drained from his body. He was left wondering - Why would the teacher say something like that? Am I that hopeless that she would pass a remark like that? Am I so useless?


He was left with self-doubt, feeling broken that even THAT teacher, who by the way doesn't even teach any of his classes, doesn't have faith in him. His self-esteem was ruined that morning. His spirit crushed. He felt humiliated. He questioned his abilities and capabilities, not just for these high school exams but, his future.


It didn't help that he had other subjects that he had to sit for, for the next consecutive days. Those words would play in his head over and over like a broken record.


As a parent, hearing him tell me what happened broke my heart because I KNOW how hard he had been studying. Quite frankly, I wanted to go all rogue. I wanted to see the teacher.


I wanted to set things straight not only for my son but for other kids as well. The kids that are not high-achieving students. The kids that are gifted in other areas, but not academically. The ones that are left behind just because they are average. The ones who are invisible because they get below-average grades.


Are these kids not worth the same attention and respect given to high achieving kids?


But my son stopped me asking me to let him get through all his exams first, and I respected his wishes. I understood that he didn't need that extra stress.


When my son was in Grade 5, his maths teacher noticed he had a nice pen and said - Nice pen, but it's not helping your maths which is still terrible (???!!! what?). He didn't tell me this until a year or two later. But still, I wanted to kill that teacher after all that time.


When he was in Grade 9, a teacher called him an idiot. He was truly disturbed by this and called me straight from school. I allowed myself to go rogue with this one which brought about a few meetings with the school. I never was allowed to speak to the said teacher to hear her side of the story. She left the school without an apology. I know for a fact if the tables were turned, my son wouldn't have gotten away with it so easily.


We talk about our teens having respect for teachers, but we sometimes forget, respect is a two-way street. Just because they are younger, they don't deserve respect?


I'm not a teacher but a parent, and I'm not even going to say that I understand what teachers go through each and every day because I don't. On the contrary, I have so much respect for teachers. I can't do what they do.


But, as a parent, I live with the aftermath of the damage that is done in school. I help my son pick up the pieces and help him build his self-confidence. I speak words of encouragement to help him build back whatever is left of his self-esteem.


My son is a very resilient person, and he's patient. He struggles a bit academically and realises he's not great, but he also realises that he has other strengths that he's very proud of.


Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash



On the other hand, my son has also had his fair share of the most amazing teachers.


The teachers who saw him for who he is. The teachers who went the extra mile to help with his weaknesses and built his strengths. The teachers who took the time to inform me what was going on with him in school and their plans to help him. The teachers who saw his strengths past his grades. The teachers who had high expectations for each kid but showed compassion and kindness at the same time. The teachers who made an effort to find out what the root of the problem was rather than just passing remarks and making judgments based on what they saw on the surface. The teachers who listened, and made him feel valued and respected. The teachers that engaged, influenced and inspired. The teachers who didn't only touch his mind but his spirit.


He thrived in these classes. It was amazing to watch and see him grow and excel. We should have more teachers like these.


From how I see it, teachers have an amazing opportunity to influence the way our children see and feel about themselves. Not just during school years but these experiences they have in school will resonate with them for the rest of their lives. It is a privilege to have this kind of influence on the younger generation, and it shouldn't be taken for granted. Instead, it should be nurtured.


I don't think teachers should go around predicting our children's future. Instead, teachers have the power to show them the endless possibilities available. When our teens are told they can't do something, they start doubting themselves and develop limitations for themselves that's not really there. We want to be able to show our teens a pathway to achieving success rather than telling them they'll never get there.


Our children struggle and have personal challenges during their teen years. Parents and teachers should band together to support them. Support them in their journey of self-discovery and growth. Words can uplift, but words can also break them.


To Teachers

from A Parent,


Never minimize the role you have on our children, regardless of their age.


Your words and actions have the power to transform or to tear apart. The words you use can crush or support our children's dreams so please choose your words carefully. You have an amazing power that shouldn't be taken lightly.


Please remember that our children's emotional and mental well being is still fragile. They should be encouraged instead of discouraged. Your subtle comments intended to be positive can be hurtful.


You have to believe that your words and actions have a long-lasting impact on our children. Our children will remember you and the experiences they've had in your class. You have a huge influence on our children that runs much deeper than the lessons you teach.


Please reflect on your own time in school and remember the positive or negative experiences that have stuck with you for all this while. You hold great power over our children.


Please help us foster self-esteem, self-belief, self-worth and confidence in our teens so they can go through the journey they have ahead of them.