Posted in Random Thoughts, Teaching

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week

So it’s Wednesday of teacher appreciation week, and I’m sitting here feeling more humbled and appreciated than I have in a really long time.  Is it because of all of the snacks we’ve gotten?  The pay raise? (HA!)  Nope.  It’s because of the love I’m feeling from students past and present, and the memories that I hold dear.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t see the actuality of what we do.  I was discussing with family how stressful teaching is.  How there are plenty of teachers who come into this profession and end up on the verge of mental breakdown, that end up on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication to help regulate their moods.  How we strive to make a difference in our students’ lives, often at a great cost to ourselves.  And their response?  “I have no pity for any of you.  You knew what you were doing.  It’s just a job.  You have a degree.  You could get a different job.  If it’s so bad, quit.”

But isn’t that it?  Do you want teachers in your buildings who lack the capacity to empathize with the whole child?  Do you want teachers who are here for a paycheck and couldn’t care less about the student and their situation.  Do you want teachers who stand idly by while a student is going through a crisis.  Do you want someone who won’t give a hug or helpful advice because it might cause them to care too much?

I don’t understand that mentality.  Sure, getting another job might be a possibility, but as someone who is in the business of trying to help students realize the great variety that life has to offer once they leave these halls, is that the message we want to send?  That it’s just a paycheck at the end of the day, and that we can always just move on if the stress gets to be too much?

Instead, why can’t we help the people in this profession feel better.  Provide them with access to mental health professionals.  Give us opportunities to destress and enjoy all that teaching has to offer.  Give us the ability to take time to get to know our kids and share some of what we enjoy with them, instead of the constant bombardment of data collection points and curriculum standard numbers.  Don’t shun people for needing help to shoulder all that teaching entails.  Because it entails a lot.

I’d rather have people fully equipped and willing to handle all it comes with, than someone who is cold and reduces it down to nothing more than a number and a paycheck.

But what do I know?

My choice in life was to be a teacher…

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Posted in Motherhood, Random Thoughts

A New Journey

I have never had the best relationship with food.  I love it.  I’m sure I love it a bit too much.  I like to eat.  I like to try new foods.  I try not to worry too much about calories, as long as it tastes good.  And that has lead me down a path that I know I’m not happy in.  I love myself as much as I can, which is to say not nearly enough as I deserve.  I think that I’m witty.  I’m easy to get along with.  I try to be someone that people like to talk to.  But all of that means nothing when I look in the mirror and am disgusted by what I see.  Okay, maybe not disgusted, but certainly not pleased.  I never thought I was vain before, but when I found that I had skin cancer on my nose, all of that sort of changed.  And now I notice it.

I think I have a skewed sense of what I actually look like as well.  I look at me and am sometimes more comfortable.  But then I see a picture, and it all comes crashing down.  Like how people with eating disorders always see themselves as fat.  I always see myself as not quite as fat as I actually am.  And I really need to do something about it.

I don’t think that diets work for me.  I get grumpy.  My husband tells me that I’m not someone he likes to be around when I’m trying to restrict my calories.  I don’t blame him.  I don’t want to be around me either when I’m doing that.

So what am I doing?  Well, I’ve been seeing the ads for Noom online for a while now.  I’ve taken their quiz thing a couple of times.  And now I’m going to give it a try.  Here I am, on day four.  238 lbs of me.  And maybe by the time I’m done, I’ll be a few pounds lighter.  Maybe I’ll have a better relationship with food.  But most importantly, maybe I’ll have a better relationship with myself.

Maybe.

 

Posted in Random Thoughts

Within these Walls

Often I think about the impact that a teacher makes on her classroom.  I think I’ve written about it more than once.

It’s hard to express what happens to your heart as a teacher.  What happens with every group of students that enters your classroom. About the joy and love that you feel for them. About the guilt that you may feel when you finally decide that you may need to take a step back and try something else.

As a freshman, I remember her sitting there in the back corner of the class, obviously troubled.  Who was I to kid? They were all troubled in their own little ways.  But that day, she seemed more out of tune than any other. Another of my students went to her and they talked in hushed whispers about whatever it was that was going on in her life. As class ended, I saw her place a razor blade in the other girl’s hand, taken from concealment in her pencil pouch. I didn’t embarass her with her obvious shame. I went and told the counselor.  They committed her for a day or two, and when she came back, she thanked me.  Thanked me for caring enough to say something, for making her parents notice, even just for a moment.

***

I was standing in the hallway, watching the traffic jam of students that spread like the tentacles of an amoeba. All of a sudden, she raced around the corner, tears in her eyes, and she looked at me and asked simply, “Can I please just have a hug?”  I wrapped my arms around her, and she cried, never telling me what it was that had caused her tears.  I didn’t need to know.  And she didn’t need to talk about it.  She just needed someone to hold her so that she didn’t feel so alone with her tears.

***

It was two years after she had graduated.  She came back to visit, bright eyed and bushy tailed.  She loved everything about the college she was attending.  It had never been better. But then she stopped and looked at me seriously.  “I don’t think I ever told you how glad I was to have you as a teacher.  How much you helped me through that first year.” Tears welled up in her eyes, and I found my own composure cracking. “You may not have known it, but you were the best teacher I ever had.” I cried there in front of her, and she cried too, and we laughed through the tears at the rediculousness of it all.

***

He had graduated the year before.  I hadn’t taught him in four years, but I remember his freshman year well.  The one day when the girl said something to set him off.  Anger flared in his eyes, this man trapped in a boy’s body.  He yelled and railed against whatever invisible daemon he was fighting, fist meeting the metal of my filing cabinet one, two, three times, leaving knuckle dents that still grace its surface twelve years later.  I was scared for him, scared for us.  The year ended, and I never knew what had happened to him to make him so full of emotion.  But talking with another teacher I learned that he was living in shelters, bouncing from one place to the next.  His constant companions were rats and mice and hunger.  He never knew where he was going to end up next or where his next meal would come from.  I see his smiling face in my Facebook feed, a member of the military, all traces of that life seemingly gone from him, save for the small glint in his eye that speaks of things from that other time.

They run together sometimes, the stories that have come and go from the lips and fingers of my students.  One student in jail because he murdered someone.  Other students lost along the way.  One shot at gunpoint.  A few married with kids.  Some still struggling to make ends meet. Others flourishing.  And I know that maybe in some way, they all remember me just a little.  I remember them.  I may not remember a name, but a face and a story, that will always be there.

And so if I walk away from this classroom, find that choices have taken me someplace else, I will take those memories with me.  A stack of drawings given freely.  The Christmas picture of my class and me, hugging and smiling.  The video of my seniors presenting songs and skits, some not appreciated nearly enough.  And I will look at them. And I will smile.  And I will try to remember, that I made a difference. Even if just for a moment.