Submitted to The Practice Corner:
I’m a teacher, and it’s our first day back, and there’s a blue envelope in my mailbox.  I know what it is.  We each get one.  It contains a sort of report card, an evaluation of my teaching last year, boiled down to a rating number I never really understand.  Each year I watch my colleagues take their envelopes and scurry off to their classrooms to open them in private, emerging with lips pressed together and a sort of scared grayness in their faces.  It’s what I’ve always done too.  Great way to start off the school year.
Beside me a colleague murmurs, “Open yours yet?”
“No,” I say, “and I’m not going to.”
“You’re not?”
“No,” I say.  “Why ruin the first day?”
I take the envelope to my classroom and store it in a desk drawer.  I’ll read it eventually.  But I’m serious about teaching.  I spent the whole summer thinking about last year.  I know what I want to do differently, and what I want to do better.  I’m serious about teaching, and I don’t need a blue envelope to scare me into more seriousness.
I feel oddly liberated.
I remember what A.S. Neil wrote in Summerhill: “The absence of fear is the finest thing that can happen to a child.”  Not such a bad thing for teachers, either.
~ Shared by A.P.  (8/29/14)


The Practice Corner is an occasional series of true (but cleverly disguised) stories told by readers working actively to free themselves from compulsive controlling. Read more here.

3 responses to “Envelope

  • PD

    Working in the creative field, I am paid money for my concepts. The hardest part of the job was the reveal. The anticipatory anxiety that came with being judged for what I did for the client It always made me perform at my highest level.

    • Steve Hauptman

      Certainly anxiety has its uses, as does accountability.

      But in my experience, past a certain point anxiety in the helping professions doesn’t encourage excellence, it prevents it. Teachers, doctors, nurses, and therapists all do their best work when they can put their own emotional needs aside and focus on their student/patient. Saddle them with excess anxiety, and you impair the helper’s ability to be helpful.

      And as for creativity, I know I write a hell of a lot better when confident than when terrified.

  • piece of shit

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