10 Things That Will Haunt You As An Educator
I see things. In my sleep usually, but I have had moments where I am haunted by ideas, events, questions, and people. I have been known to see people and even monkeys in my sleep. I scream in the middle of the night as if I were being murdered. I find myself standing in the middle of the kitchen at 4 am. I have even had the police show up at my apartment because the neighbors below me thought I was being killed. I have found myself in hallways of hotel rooms hours later knocking on the door for someone to let me in. I am not easy to live with.
I can tell you though, that I have grown immune to most it now. I am haunted by simple everyday events. I am haunted by things that you can see very clearly in the plain daylight. I am haunted in a way that keeps me on my toes. I am haunted in a way that makes me run toward the chaos. Haunting does not always have to be terrifying, but it will keep you up at night (hopefully not in the middle of the kitchen like me).
This lists scratches the surface of what I am haunted by as a teacher. Some of this is the tough stuff…the stuff no one really talks.
10 Things That Haunt You As An Educator
1. What if that one student really does commit suicide? The toughest one first, right? I hate to say that it is almost a weekly occurrence that I am haunted by this question. I worry about kids that are not even biologically mine. I worry that the pain is deeper than any counselor can dig out. I worry that the pain is so real that they will not be able to see clearly. I worry that whatever I say may not be enough.
2. Lesson Plans. No joke, they will find you in your sleep, in the shower, and without fail on a Sunday night during dinner-no breakfast, lunch, and dinner! You will always wonder if it will actually work, if students will ever listen, and if your objective relates to your activities. I have completely changed my plans 10 minutes before 1st hour one too many times.
3. What if my report to the Department of Human Services makes things worse at home? I am a mandated reporter. With this, I am legally bound to report any hint of abuse or neglect of my students. I have had to make numerous reports, and I can tell you that every time I wonder if my call will cause more harm. I wonder if that student who just trusted me no longer will. I wonder if that student will regret ever telling their secrets. This is terrifying, but not reporting is even more horrific. Always report.
4. The kid that has worn the same shirt and pants for 3 weeks. It may take a while to notice. Most of my students wear the same hoodie 365 days a year because they love it, but there are some that you just know that is not the case. I want to buy them clothes. I want to give them a gift card. I want to offer to wash them. The trouble is that at this age it is hard to bring up. It could be humiliating for even a teacher to notice. I am haunted by the fact that so many kids go without, while others live in excess.
5. The student who has not said anything to you in 6 months. This is rare, yet real. There is always one kid or more that is screaming in silence. I sit there and wonder what is happening at home. I wonder what their secrets are. I wonder why they don’t care. I wonder if they have any friends. I wonder if they will talk to anyone. I take my time to relate, to compliment them, but sometimes there is just nothing. Keep trying though, because that same kid may be the one who comes to you for situation #3 above. It happened to me, and I am so glad she finally broke her silence. Believe me a quiet classroom or student is more deafening than a lively one.
6. I see my students more than my own kids. Someone else is raising my kids during the school year. Don’t get me wrong I love my job. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but its daunting to think that I blindly trust someone else to teach and care for my two daughters each and everyday. I wonder if my darling 2-year-old just sits and watches tv all day at daycare. I wonder if my 6-year-old is learning anything at all. I wonder if they are being made fun of. I worry about 800 million things that I have no control over when I am not there.
7. Data. I’m a geek, I love numbers. I love analyzing them and putting them into spreadsheets. This may be horrifying in itself to some of you. Yet as a teacher data is down right scary. I was 2 points away for applying for another raise this year. If a few more kids had passed their final, I could have possibly went up in salary by over 5k. The numbers keep you up at night. They keep you in front of a calculator hoping the .6 will round-up. I have seen many teachers lose it over their testing data. Numbers are your best friend and your greatest enemy no matter if you are a math teacher or not.
8. The days I leave my classes with a substitute. The best of kids can turn into (no swearing here) jerks. They will find your lesson plans and throw them away, they will lead a class walkout, they will push the sub, they will cuss them out, they will say the sub was never there, and they will make excuses about how they didn’t understand the assignment. Yes, answering 1-26 on page 314 is totally confusing. AGH! I can tell you this, it is more work to be gone.
9. Objectives, standards, common core, federal funding…and the list goes on. If you are a teacher you know, if you are not, ask a teacher. I would take up the entire Internet with this explanation.
10. “They may forget what you said, but they will NEVER forget how you made them feel”~Carl W. Buechner This haunts me in a way that makes me better. That makes me think. That makes me want to be more than just a teacher. It is in the back of my mind with each step and interaction I make. I have and will make mistakes in this area, but I will strive for perfection here. At the end of the day I could care less if they know the law of diminishing utility 5 years from now. I want them to know that I see them. I care. We care-all of us.
I wish that I could tell you that education is all rainbows and lollipops. It simply is not. It is a beautiful mess. Yes, it haunts me, but remember I see things, and I sleep walk-this is nothing. We (teachers) got this.