Posted by: Tom Triumph | May 19, 2013

192. Self-Pity: D. H. Lawrence

Four weeks until graduation. Cue drama.

My career began at a crazy school. It was a private boarding school for behavior problems, and we spent a lot of time in groups talking about our past and feelings; more time spent than we did in the classroom. For these kids, they needed it. We unpacked bags and I learned a lot about 12 step programs, the pitfalls of co-dependence and the healing power of self-reflection. There was also a lot of navel-gazing.

During this time, I also learned that people caused drama to disguise other, more authentic emotion. So, people who were sad about leaving friends would, unconsciously, lash out at that same friend. Why? Because they wanted to push them away before they left. It was about control–Good riddance and anger felt better than loneliness.

So, with four weeks left I warn them to be honest; it makes the days go so much smoother.

Like any middle school, a number of kids mistake drama for actual emotion: No love is as deep as a good fight with a boyfriend. I mentioned this to one student, in a fit of calm she had one day, and she replied, “Yeah, but that’s so boring.”

As teachers, we also suffer from a bit of projection. Lately, I have been feeling the loneliness of my students. The ones with tight cliques want to be with their friends in other classes, while others feel like anchors to the group holding them back. My sister says it’s more me than them–empathy on overload. Perhaps.

And, in the end, what does all of this have to do with learning to read, write and add? Answer: Good middle school is about the student. The whole student.

That said, work keeps them honest. Some teachers let it loose near the end, thinking that kids need a break, and everything goes to pot. 180 days! Meaningful work. No room for pity. As they gaze out the window and ask to have class outside, quietly explain this to them as you say “No.”

Before the end, or holiday break, or any other emotional time, pull this poem out. What makes them forget their own drama? How do they let go? Sports. Reading. Building. Work. Only then have them suggest how to move forward.

At the same time, look at Lawrence’s images. Wild thing. Small bird. Drop frozen dead. Bough. Such a small package, yet it veers from extremes to the poignant.

Self-Pity
D. H. Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

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