Saturday, February 21, 2015

In Which the Teacher Learns

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 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.

1 comment:

Erik Ammon said...

I don't know what to say either in some circumstances. You just have to do the best you can. I've had those days with my classes as well. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be there for them. We shed a lot of tears last year when we lost a fellow 3rd grader. It was a heart wrenching. But just being there, with them, keeping the routine somewhat normal, is the right thing to do, too.