I am going on my twelfth year at the same Title I middle school. That is not said as a martyred projection or badge of honor, but a statement of fact, circumstances, decision making, and choices. Every teacher I know has had a rough time this past decade. Some have gone to “easier” schools, or districts, where they found a comfortable home. Some have expressed to me survivor’s guilt, and some have ‘ghosted’ our friendships, probably because working at a school like mine is hard, and it takes an emotional toll, causing me to leak out stress. Occasionally those leaks become straight-up tsunamis. I don’t blame them for not wanting to be around me: I don’t want to be around myself sometimes.
This video got to me. She maintained her composure while rubbing her hands, refocusing on her paper, and staying the course, to its climatic ending of her resignation. Her paper may well have been a white flag, and her hands in surrender. When my husband watched it, he commented how he knew I had felt this same level of pain.
No one is to blame for this: administrators do their best, district-level personnel want and desire excellence. However, in the championed cause of “students come first” the heads of teachers become the stepping stones across this mighty gulf. Teachers are sometimes not considered the human connection between student and world, but merely the middle management, with no real authority. And some teachers do not deserve respect. I would wager, though, that any social-emotional well-being for teachers is considered superfluous. Teachers should just ‘have it.’ If you’re a parent, you know that the hardest job in the world is given to amateurs, (as my dad likes to say), and so is teaching. We make mistakes: but dang, so do our students. So how do all of us learn to do better?
We are never to take anything personally, always build relationships, and create safe places. And we do. Or we try to. But being human, we have amygdalas, too: keeping in control of our frontal cortexes in the moment is challenging. The smatterings of misogynistic, sexist, ageist, and disrespectful things said to me by a small group of students is nothing compared to the national stage of police violence, political decrepitude, and social media bruising. But I am still charged with teaching ‘soft skills’ in a world so racist and vile it hardly seems to matter.
We were all feeling something this year. No matter who you voted for, or if you didn’t vote at all, something shifted, violently and without justice.
Maybe it’s time we’re honest with one another. If we reach out for help. platitudes and trope quotes won’t help. Prayers and thoughts are sweet, but not helpful. Listen. Truly listen. Good advice: click the link.
One of my favorite episodes –not so much hope, but we are all of us in this together: