The Other Opportunity Cost of Teaching

This blog post is a raw one…so raw I wrote the bulk of it a year ago and tabled it because it felt like I was too close to the situation.  It was ready to reveal itself after some editing (thanks, Don), time and distance.

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Since this is my own space, I’ll share some extra detail.  Last year was a particularly difficult year in (then) eighteen years of classroom teaching.

The needs of the vast majority of my 90 students were so intense, I was utterly overwhelmed.  Their reading levels were multiple grade levels below where they should be, they had no willingness to engage in respectful communication with each other or with their peers, and many of them needed serious help for their many ACEs, far beyond what can be expected of a classroom teacher.  I struggled with basic classroom management as if I were a beginning teacher, not a veteran.  Every day was a challenge and I searched high and low for each tiny spark of a bright light.

My student teacher, a long-time decorated military veteran, quit one day, explaining to me in tears that fighting in a combat zone was easier than teaching at my school (I did eventually convince him to stay but it took all my powers of persuasion and the reminder of his proximity to graduation).

Over the months, my stress level soared and took its toll on my body.  I suffered a total physical breakdown that rendered me unable to walk for a week.  My mental health deteriorated until eventually I learned to cope by becoming absent and detached – burnout.

Today, I pass those students on the playground each day as I walk this year’s crop of students to lunch.  At the beginning of the year, I would see them and immediately my heart would race, my muscles clench, and I would feel nauseous.  Over time, the feelings lessened.  Guilt overtook as students came up for hugs and hellos and I begin to realize how far I removed myself from them.  Was it self-preservation? A mild form of PTSD?Trauma?  I don’t know but I’m glad I came out the other side.  This year has been like a gift…a fresh start.

Read the full post on the Stories from School site here.

 

 

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