What Misfits Wish Their Teachers Knew (Guest Blogger - Courtney's Voice)

Courtney's VoiceCourtney’s Voice is the online manifestation of a young lady who has wrestled with more in 18 years than many of us do over a lifetime. Rather than hide it away and use the magic of the interwebs to paint a shinier picture of herself and her world, Courtney lays it all out in brutal honestly – right or wrong, hurting or healing, accepted or attacked.

Sometimes it’s rather poetic, and others… painfully blunt. Often it’s both.

While I don’t claim to fully embrace everything Courtney has to say about every issue, I’ve come to rely on her for an unfiltered perspective on things for which teacher school couldn’t possibly prepare us. I love her transparency and willingness to struggle publicly in order to make it a tiny bit easier for other teens or young adults to confront their demons or accept their differences.

And it does.

I asked Courtney if she’d be willing to contribute a guest blog on the subject of "What I wish my teachers knew about me," primarily from the point of view of the misfit or misunderstood.  I’m in no way suggesting teachers consciously neglect ANY of our kids or have some secret malice towards those we don’t quite understand. Honestly, the fact that we connect with as many as we do is something of a miracle, given the generational differences and sheer numbers in front of us every day.

But none of us are omniscient, and none immune to the frustrations or failures associated with carrying responsibility for kids we don’t always ‘get’. This is not a lecture, but a reminder of what we so easily miss if not ever-watchful and ‘tuned in’ to our little darlings. It’s as a reminder of our calling.

Thanks, Courtney. I’m glad you’re here.

Hello. You don’t know me, you probably don’t even remember my name, but I’m your student.

I’m that eager beaver over achiever who sits in the front of the class and raises her hand for every question. What you don’t know is that the pressure my parents put on me, and that I put on myself, is starting to break me. When you “talk” to the troubled kids, I often wish it were me you were talking to so I could open up about how much weight is on my shoulders.

I’m that kid who sits in the back, slouching and you don’t think I’m paying attention. Truth is, I am trying really hard but my effort goes unnoticed. Teachers constantly tell me to try harder and it makes me want to give up because I feel like I am not good enough.

I’m the class clown, always loud and making inappropriate jokes. You try your best to hide how you really feel about me, but you don’t realize my jokes are me crying out for attention. Maybe I am unheard at home and enjoy that people listen in class. Or maybe I am hurting and use comedy as a way to cope. It is my way of yelling for help without having to say the words.

Sometimes I think that making others laugh will somehow mute my pain.

I’m that quiet kid who never speaks. You call on me, but barely hear my answers when I give them to you. Sometimes you look at me like you pity me. But I don’t want your pity; I have social anxiety and you put me in a tough place by forcing me to answer in front of the entire class.

I’m that girl that dresses like a guy and prefers a different name from the girly one I was born with. Or I’m that boy that likes other boys even though it means getting beaten up in the locker room because everyone thinks I’m checking them out. Or maybe I’m that girl who just isn’t sure if she likes girls or guys. And I am just starting to come to terms with who I am.

It’s been a long journey of self-discovery, and all the kids around me make me hate myself because they don’t understand. I cower when you call on me because I don’t need any more attention brought to me. They ask me why I'm the way I am, or lecture me about what is “right.” I’m tired of trying to explain that it’s just who I am. I can’t help it, or explain it so they'll get it.

All I want is for someone to care, and for my feelings to matter, even if they don’t agree with them.

I’m that kid who can’t even fake a smile for the jokes you think are so funny. Every day I walk in looking like I haven’t slept in days, and often I haven’t. Depression has set in with me and I just can’t make the effort.

Every student, no matter how they behave, has a story. We all go through things we wish others would see.

That misfit student you can’t seem to put your finger on? The one that gets on your nerves for being silent, or for being too loud? They are screaming in one way or another for your attention. Sure, they may be cold with you at first when you try to talk to them or you try to get them to have a one-on-one conversation. But don’t walk away. Don’t give up on them.

Honestly, they need someone to try for them, to fight for them, to show them they matter. They want you to know that they are struggling, whether it’s stress over college and the future, or whether they’re worried they won’t have food on their plate tonight.

Some are being bullied so badly all they can think about is how much easier it would be if they were no longer here. Others may be worried about just passing so they can go to the next grade.

I have been all of the students I listed above. Each year I tried a new persona as a way to cry out for help when none of the other ways worked.

Luckily, my 6th grade year, I had a teacher who genuinely noticed how “off” I was. She saw that I was pressuring myself too much while also battling social anxiety. She’s the one who encouraged me to write as a way to cope with my feelings, and to be more vocal. It was obvious to her that I didn’t have a voice, and she thought that writing could be my voice.

She was an English teacher, and after a few assignments, she came to me after class one day. “Your writing is raw and emotional in a way I haven’t seen in a while.”

Simple words, but for me they held so much meaning. To me, it meant that the feelings I poured out into everything I wrote were being heard. After that day, I began to pour myself into my assignments even more. I started showing her poems I had written that were just for me. I opened up to her and talked to her about the serve depression I was facing, all because she took the time to acknowledge my feelings; to acknowledge me.

Years later, I connected with her on Facebook and explained to her just how much of an impact it had, her taking time out of her day to encourage me and comfort me. Little did she know that simply talking to me would lead to that voice being amplified by that writing she had pressed me to continue. There was no way she could have known that it was because of her that I would start writing and speaking up against the injustices I faced and I have watched others face.

Taking just one minute to talk to your students really can change their life.

Sometimes we just need a boost. Every now and then we need a shoulder to lean on and an ear to talk into. Just because we don’t come to you first doesn’t mean we don’t need you. Sometimes we just have our own ways of trying to get your attention. Sometimes we think we don’t want your attention, even when we do.

Don’t think that we don’t care about what you say, even if we do have an attitude. Sometimes we simply can’t admit to needing the help. But your words run deep and ignite things inside of us. Teachers are inspirations. Use that power for good.

I was a misfit. Fitting in just wasn’t something I could do. I was suffering from serve depression and anxiety. But my recovery started with one teacher who took the time to understand me and talk to me, even if she didn’t believe in everything I did or support all the causes I did. Her taking the time to say, in so many words, “Hey I care,” helped me to realize there are people out there who will listen and there is a reason to keep fighting. 

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Comments

This is amazing -- insights and writing. Courtney, you make me want to go back to the classroom...to find all these kids and tell them I love them.

Courtney,

I am about to embark on my 3rd year teaching, this time 7th grade. Your post has reminded me why I teach. Thank you for the reminder that school is NOT all about passing the test and student academic achievement. It is about connecting with students who are our future. Thanks again for sharing, and keep writing!! :)

Thank you Courtney! You have expressed so beautifully the message I cry out for colleagues to hear. Hearing it from you could be a game changer!!

This post was really special and important to me so I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has left such amazing comments!

Thank you. I can't wait to share this with my principal. This is exactly what teachers who aren't reaching out to kids need to understand. You've articulated what should be the foundation of every single Teacher Education Program, but I don't think they address this ever.

That was a beautiful message! It takes courage to share something so personal that might help others find their voice.

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