I started my teaching career believing I could change the world, and make it better, through giving the gift of music to kids. While I've had a few harsh lessons along the way, I still believe this, though I've learned that real life is not "Stand and Deliver" and I am not a perfect teacher.
I'd love to think that my mere presence in a troubled child's life can bring good things, but I've learned over the years that I have to fight to influence kids--they're human beings like anyone else and they have minds of their own; those minds are often shaped by outside forces long before I arrive on the scene, and no amount of "but I think you're wonderful" can truly quiet the demons in their heads who tell them they're worthless.
Still, I keep soldiering forward. I do it for the kids who don't really need me, but who just enjoy singing. I do it for the kids who might only get one smile directed their way in the day--from me. I maintain my patience, I fake massive amounts of energy when I'm at my most exhausted, and I truly, absolutely, love what I do.
That doesn't mean my job is easy.
Yesterday was one of those days that called on all of the inner coping skills I can muster; there is no on-the-job-stress quite like seeing a student you care about in major distress. I can't/won't go into major details here. I value the privacy of all students, so while I'll share the funny moments and the anecdotes on this blog, I won't share everything.
But suffice to say that yesterday, I took actions on behalf of two students--one known to me, the other unknown--to ensure their safety. The result of this was for my student, one I've known for a year-and-a-half now, go through a terrifying situation she's seen before: sobbing, pleading, and handcuffed to protect her from herself. Yes, handcuffed.
I wanted to hug her. I wanted to cry. What I did do was sit on the floor next to her, a hand on her shoe, trying to talk to her calmly. At one point, I reached up to pull a lock of hair back that had gotten stuck to her mouth as she cried inconsolably. Mostly, however, I just sat there, not knowing what to do...because I'm human. I'm not a teacher in a movie. And real life is ugly sometimes.
It's ugly far too often for some kids.
Somehow, I manage to maintain some hope and optimism in the face of some of the things I have seen in this career...career? Let's call it what it is: a calling. A calling I've never been able to ignore, not through two years of total unemployment and all the career changes I considered. Everything led me straight back to teaching, and perhaps the simple fact that I am a human being, complete with flaws and compassion and hope and sometimes no idea what to do next...perhaps that is just what makes me good at what I do.
I've gotten very good at compartmentalizing, so the stresses of yesterday are tucked neatly in their box, and I'm able to relax and enjoy my weekend. I have no idea what Monday will bring, but I hope things will be looking up for my student.