A Tale of Two Teachers: It Was the Best of Class, It Was the Worst of Class

Do you ever feel like you’re surrounding by negativity?

Sometimes it seems like everyone around you has a bad attitude. You try your best, but it’s almost impossible to get them to act right and play nice.

But what role do your own thoughts and emotions have in creating your environment?

Consider the tale of two teachers.

They’re both public high school teachers; one teaches biology, and the other teaches language arts (the fancy label for what we used to call English).

One has a Facebook fan group. It was started by her students; they love her. When she walks down the hall, past and current students come up and say,  “Hey, Ms. Y, how’s it going?” Kids are on fire for her class. They show up early, and they go back to see her year after year.

The other teacher also has a Facebook group, and it too was started by students. But it’s not a fan page; it’s the “I Survived Ms. X” group. Kids don’t make eye contact with her when she walks down the hall; instead they look at the floor or roll their eyes behind her back.

The teacher with the fan page teaches biology, and the teacher whose students can’t wait to escape teaches language arts. They both teach gifted classes, they both have reputations as really tough teachers, and they’re both regarded as experts in their field. Anyone would say of either of them, “She really knows her stuff.”

Yet they get completely different responses from their students.

Here’s where it gets interesting: they don’t just teach the same kind of kids, gifted kids. They teach the exact same kids. They both teach at the same high school, and the same students are in both classes.

I’ve interacted with both these teachers, and I’ve seen the way they look when they talk about their students. The difference is amazing.

Ask the rocking biology teacher about her kids, and she’ll tell you, “The kids in this school are so great. They are on fire to learn. They’re motivated, they’re fun and they’re interesting.”

Yet I suspect if you were to ask the dreaded language arts teacher what the kids at her school are like, she would probably tell you, “They’re spoiled, they don’t care, and they might be smart, but most of them don’t really want to learn.”

And they would both be right because that’s exactly the way they experience their students.

Here’s the sad reality: one teacher is showing up every day with 150 people excited to see her while the other teacher is showing up facing five classrooms a day of kids who would rather be anywhere else than with her.

They’ve both created their own realities.

What’s even sadder is that they get a new set of students every single year so it’s completely within their power to create a different dynamic. Yet year after year, they both repeat the exact same experience.

We often think that our moods and emotions are in response to the people around us. But perhaps the people around us are simply responding to our energy.

As these two teachers prove, sometimes our attitude isn’t caused by our circumstances; our attitude is what creates our circumstances.

You can’t inspire people whom you disdain, and you can’t teach people you don’t like.

It’s a tough lesson, but fortunately you get to retake the test every single day.