Frustration seems to be hanging in the air like a thick fog. Students seem frustrated with school; teachers seem frustrated with students.
One of the recurring frustrations I encounter is a student who will not wear his or her glasses, thus negatively affecting his or her grade. Perhaps the idea, dare I say “eye”dea, is more pertinent to me because I recently suffered a torn retinal in my left eye and a detached retina in my right eye. The thought of losing my sight was a little scary. I realized I would not see my kids participate in their sports (or try to disappear when it was time to wash the dishes.) I also realized I might not be able to teach. What other job could I have that would allow me to torture high school students?
I guess I had taken my eyesight for granted. Now I get very frustrated when I see students refuse to wear glasses even though doing so would improve their learning. Yet, I do understand.
In the spring of my sixth grade year, I found out I needed glasses. I couldn’t see the black board and kept looking at my friend’s paper to copy his notes. The teacher noticed and called my parents. One eye doctor visit later and I was the owner of a pair of brown glasses. Since the cool-looking glasses were not on my parent’s insurance plan, I was reduced to three choices. One was exactly like my mother’s. Can you say, “many years of therapy” if I chose to look like my mom? The second choose were little kid glasses that had kittens on the frame. Can you say, “Even more years of therapy”? The last pair looked like they were rejected by Sally Jessy Rafael.
However, it gets worse. A week later, I got braces. Not just braces that I could hide by not smiling. That would have been bearable. However, lucky me had to wear neck gear because of my overbite. My face became hidden behind coke-bottle glasses and a wire running around my face. I felt like a lightning rod. To this day, I still loathe thunderstorms.
Needless to say, this experience has helped me empathize with students who are struggling with the idea of being different. Kaleigh was one of those students. She struggled with reading the chalk board because she didn’t think she looked pretty enough with her glasses. I tried to convince her to wear them in class. Instead of sitting her up front, I let her sit in the back of the class. Everyday, she would covertly remove her glasses from her purse and put them. The rest of the class was focused on the front of the room, so they never noticed. Or, if they did, they never said anything. Her grades improved and after a month she realized no one was noticing or going to comment on her new look. Her grades and confidence improved.
Another student had struggled for over half of the year. Because he could not see the board, he did not take notes. Instead, he would speak out of turn. He would do anything to try to get attention and avoid doing his work. He just seems to live by Kurt Vonnegut‘s philosophy: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” He wasn’t a bad kid, just struggling. When he wore his glasses, he could stay focused, (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun). Being able to see the assignments, the notes, and his book kept him on task. He even started to do his homework. He reminded me of Lech Walesa‘s words: “It is hardly possible to build anything if frustration, bitterness and a mood of helplessness prevail.”
So, my frustration ebbs as I remember these two kids who overcame obstacles. Good luck with you frustrations.