The Language of Failure

The second I place my phone on the counter, it begins making a noise.  I look at the screen and it is my sister.  My husband’s words flash through my mind, “The second you get home, you start sewing.”  For a split second I freeze, then I answer the nagging ring.

“Hey Bridgie.” I say.

“Is this a bad time, Rocky?”  I hear on the other end.

“Of course not,” I answer.  “Do you mind if I clean while we talk?”

“No… not at all,” Bridgie answers.

“It’s just that… the house is a mess.  I am in the middle of an order and I want to clean the kitchen before Trent gets home.”  Bridgette understands.

Anytime I get to talk with my sisters, I take the time.  The three of us spent our early years sharing a bedroom…  40 years later, careers,  husbands, children, and life have separated us physically but we are still as close as the early years.

“I hear you had a tough week,”  Bridgette says.

My sister’s words echo through my mind as I flash through all of my students’ “I can’t”s and “That’s too hard!” and “THIS is stupid!”  It didn’t help that another teacher told me I wasn’t teaching the math topics fast enough, and at the rate I was going, my students wouldn’t learn enough.  It had been a long week.

My noncommittal answer, “It could have been better.”  And, I  begin to confess my week to her.  I also confess my frustration.  “What do I do?”  I ask both of us.

“I had a similar problem this week,”  Bridgette states.

She precedes to tell me her story…

“He flat refused to do his math homework!  That is not like him.”

“Oh, okay.  What did you do?” I respond.

“I told him he could complete it in the morning before school since he gets up early.”

“That sounds reasonable,” I answer.

“Except, this morning he kicked his younger brother and yelled “Your math homework is soooooo easy!”  I tried to explain to him his brother is 2 years younger, so of course the math is easier,” Bridgette continued.


“I finally looked at his math homework… And…  He had to write large numbers in word form.”

“Oh,” I whisper.

I hear the garage door opening.  Trent is home and I am supposed to be sewing.

“Hey Bridgie, I gotta go…  Trent’s home.”  Our conversation ends unfinished, but I can’t stop thinking about what she said.

Unspoken words remain between my sister and I.  In that moment I see my error.  There is always more to every story.  You see, my nephew has dyslexia and his frustration had nothing to do with math or homework. It had to do with spelling.

My week, my students’ complaints start to make sense.  I start to understand the language they were speaking.  I failed my students this week.  It is my job to be fluent in more than just English…  I must listen to the subtle language whispered in my presence…   a universal language that joins continents.  It is the language all humans’ speak…

The language of failure.


Author: raqueldixonblog

I am starting my 13th year as a fifth grade teacher and have a total of 22 years as teacher under my belt. I have a BFA in metal working and a MEd in Special Education. My favorite part of being a teacher is it is a place I can be myself. My classroom feels like home.

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