Yo, teach!

I have a savior complex, especially with my students.

I’m sure in some ways it can be beneficial, but mostly I don’t think it’s doing anyone any favors.

I’m fiercely protective of my students. I want to be the one who makes everything turn right again. I want to be the one they trust. Me, me, me. So if it is about me, am I actually helping them at all?

Over the years I have seen so many sad things. Kids hurting and kids hurt and this is all in a middle-class, mostly white, suburban area. I used to think that kids here were ok, but as it turns out abuse is everywhere.

The thing is, if I weren’t me, I probably wouldn’t know in most cases. Sure, some were obvious, like the student who had to leave with the police on the last day of school because the meth house she lived in was discovered. But more are subtle, you don’t know until they ask to have lunch with you and they mention something that gives you pause. My first year teaching, a girl wrote a suicide note to me in her daily journal. So much grief and trauma and …

This year, more than ever, has cemented the role of public schools in society. It has made me acutely aware of the limitations you have when the only way to connect with a kid is through a computer. It has caused me to sit and stare at the wall trying to figure out how to reach a kid. Sitting on a zoom call while a kid sobs to you and tells you how sad they are– I haven’t quite figured out a way to describe that feeling.

So much of my life and health is impacted by my career. My anxiety, my sadness, my savior complex, my fixation on trying to save kids, the way I tie my success to empathy and kindness, it sucks the life out of me.

And, one could argue (and they have) that it’s not even my job. Right? My job is to educate. Deliver a curriculum.

But how do you deliver a curriculum to the child whose dad was just put in jail? How do you keep a child in for not doing homework when you know they take care of their baby sister all night? How do you punish a child for not paying attention when you know they had fetal alcohol syndrome?

I’ve heard so many things during this pandemic. Shut up. Do your job. Must be nice to not have to do any work. You are lazy.

It’s wearing on me. I don’t like to admit that, because I’m supposed to be stronger, but it is. Did people in other generations feel like this? Like the world was going to shit and there is nothing you can do to stop it? I’m so terrified of everyone’s anger. I’m so heartsick at the lack of kindness and the fight over politics. If you cannot even hear a sentence you disagree with without having your blood pressure rise, perhaps it’s time to reflect a little.

Maybe it’s just me. And maybe I’ve had way too much time in my head without the normal distractions of life. But I had a dream last night that a long-lost relative left me a fortune so I could stop working and write. And I woke up crying, which is strange—because isn’t that my dream? A way to be a full-time writer?

I will admit-the thought of logging back onto Zoom in a few days makes me feel ill. I’m weary. I’m tired. We’re heading back to school f2f in a few weeks and I’m thrilled-except that I’m high-risk and the kids eat lunch in my room, unmasked, and that keeps me up at night. But I cannot wait-I can’t wait to have to deal with recess drama and dance around the room while the kids are working and randomly blast music to take them off guard and decide to take a day off writing and turn off the lights and tell ghost stories and read books outside once it gets warm and all the other tiny joys of life with a class of 10-year-olds who hang on your every move.

Teachers out there-maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re not. But what I know is there ain’t NO WAY we’d all be doing this anymore if we didn’t love kids. And so I want you to know that I see you. I’m with you. Hang in there, if you can. If you can’t? Ain’t no shame in that, either.


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