A TFM Christmas: A Time for Tears

As we approach Christmas, we take the time to reflect on our greatest source of strength and inspiration: our students. In this tale, 2013 Fellow Shu Ann learns the hard way that there are some things that teachers can’t fix – only understand, accept and guide their students through as best they can.


“They say a teacher will cry at least once; there’s always a first.

I took a period each out of my two rowdiest classes and did two activities in both classes. The first activity was to divide the students into two groups, giving privileges only to one group. At the end of the activity, I asked the classes if I was being fair to them. In Class A, there were students from both groups who raise their hands up and confidently said that I was unfair but in Class B, only the disadvantaged group dared to raise their hands despite my constant reminder that they should be very honest with their own feelings. I told them that it happens in real world, and there will always be disadvantaged groups, but they should take a stand and tell everyone that it is wrong to be put in that position.

Activity two was inspired by the movie Freedom Writers. I asked them to get in two parallel lines facing each other and answer my questions by taking a step forward. No talking was allowed.

I started asking questions about things that have happened in their lives that hurt them. No one in either class took less than two steps. Some of my questions:

1) Have ever been lied to by someone whom you trust dearly?
2) Have you ever seen any of your loved ones die in front of you?
3) Have you ever seen anyone you know in the gang, die or got hurt in front of you?
4) Have you ever been labelled as stupid or scolded by someone you really care for?
5) Have you ever been lied to, to do things that you regretted after?

I explained my thoughts to Class A and how they should care for someone else’s feelings and not just theirs and I left.

In Class B, I burst into tears when I saw how many of them took a step forward when I asked those questions. These students have lived life the hard way and no one sees the scars they have on their bodies and souls. They looked at me and asked me not to cry. I cracked a joke about none of them have tissues with them at all while I was crying.

‘I am sorry for what has happened to you and if I have scolded you before, forgive me. I am sorry. I want the best for you. I want you to understand that.’”