The Hardest Thing Lately

The hardest part of my day is ignoring Miles. I say hello to everyone before class, but not Miles. I kinda stare off past him, interesting myself in some shrubbery or a cloud, or I pretend to see a friend from my childhood far across the courtyard. He slumps past me, head low, hatred for all of humanity hanging over his head like a cloud.

It sucks, but every day I say hello to him, he’s sullen for two hours. Every day I act as diffident as he is to pleasantries like “hello” he’s fired up all period and eager to please.

I mean, what would you do?


I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I taught a number of students who were difficult emotionally … and I taught a few of them over a number of years.

    I think the best we can do is 1) respect their wishes as far as possible, as best we can (as you seem to be doing) and 2) find ways to let them know, when the timing is right and as unintrusively as possible, that you actually do care if they’re OK.

    No easy way to do that, though … and different for every kid. I’ve had the benefit of keeping in touch with a few of those difficult students since graduation, and I can tell you that most of them do “grow out of it” and all of them do notice (and appreciate) that you noticed and cared, even if they don’t show it, and even if you fumbled your way through it at the time.

    Wishing you successful fumbling.

  2. @Eric, “No easy way to do that, though …” Kinda the fun of this job, isn’t it? Dunno anywhere else I’d be right now getting the same rigorous tutorial in human nature.

    @Liza, nope. I’m leaving the valley at the end of the school year. Always someone new, though.

  3. These situations are where teachers are made.

    Do whatever you gotta do to get in and relate…and don’t worry if it takes a loooong time. So long as you don’t do something stupid that breaks trust, you’ve got good chances because you care.

    All the best.

  4. Judging by all the posts of yours I have read, I would venture to guess that you fit in the “strong personality” category. I don’t. When people with strong personalities are in an authority figure (teachers of mine, bosses, older brother) I get tense. Not quite like a turtle hiding in his shell, but a bit like, “get me outta here! NOW!”.
    Try not to be Mr. Meyer when you speak to him. Act like this guy is going to act in 10 years when he is your age. Use his manerisms, stance, etc. I took a graduate level counseling class and we were always told to “walk in our clients shoes”. Not always easy to do. Actually, never easy to do. Try it with Miles. From the little image I have of this kid, I would mumble something around him. Like, “I soooo don’t want to be here today. I shoulda called out sick”.
    I’ve always done well with these kinds of kids. People have always said to me “You don’t seem like the teacher type”. Since I was a kid, I was always attracted to teachers that were human. The ones who while good teachers, plopped in a movie now and then. I got them.
    I admire teachers that are always on their “A” game. The ones who hit the ground running, who walk the halls full speed, have no time for chit-chat (or don’t know how to chit-chat) seem to be always carrying a boom box on their shoulder with “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston blaring. Not saying that’s you, Dan.
    OK, maybe I feel sorry for them.

    Say-La-Vee [sic]

  5. No idea & no idea. My fianceé graduates in May. Once she gets a job, I’ll carpet bomb the area with teaching applications. Bay Area & Sacramento are the #1 & #2 most likely future residence of mr. and mrs. dy/dan but who knows.

    Who cares, for that matter. I’m gettin’ hitched! The rest’ll shake itself out.

  6. First, carpetbomb down here in So Cal, HOLLA.

    Second, if you ever hand back anything to your silent-emo man, Miles, I’d write, “Hey—when I don’t say hi to you, I’m really saying hi, in my soul, to you, but when I say it out loud, I’m just acknowledging you along with the rest of the sheep.”

    Get in his head, man. Get in his head.

  7. Well, go figure–good luck with your upcoming nuptials. I’ve been married to the same person for 36 years—it’s been a good gig. Your new school will be lucky to have you. We will be joining together to write a rec for you, just let us know where to send it.

  8. Lori Jablonski

    April 12, 2008 - 8:47 am -

    Getting Married? Nice.
    If you’re coming to Sac, you know where I am…I’m not sure McClatchy is a place you would find employment happiness (is it possible for tech conditions to actually be -2.0?) but we could sure use your brand of math sass and there are some nifty iconoclasts working in every dept. Anyway, email me or stop by if you’re in the big tomato, I would love to meet you.

  9. I have been there before. I have one in my class named Nathan. It is really difficult, but you have to do what has to be done. Best of luck to you.