I love teaching. I love watching my kids change over the course of a year. I love nurturing their minds and hearts. I love witnessing the little kindnesses that grow out of the seedlings of compassion that have been planted over time. I love hearing them use a word that I’ve taught them in a conversation with their peers. I love the facial expression that flits across the face of a consistently C grade student when they finally progress to a C+ before they carefully compose their features back into an expression of apathy. I love hearing the bully in the room comment on how he actually really likes the one he picks on and mean it, because he doesn’t think anyone else heard him.
I love my industry. We band together in times of struggle. We help each other grow professionally. We support each other and make each other laugh and defend the members of our tribe from the critical eyes of the public.
However, we also teach teenagers. Teenagers who can be cruel to each other, and heartless to staff. This week alone I have been kicked twice by a student, sworn at, continually disrespected. I have had my personal belongings stolen and flaunted in front of me. I have been the subject of vulgarity that is akin to the cat-calls of construction workers – a student said these things towards me. I am fairly good at behaviour management; and for the first time this week my strategies didn’t work. I was shocked. I was upset. And I was frustrated. In the heat of the moment I went to my office, a safe place where previously my peers have sat and shared battle stories to reflect with each other and support and calm one another. am also very animated – it’s part of what makes me a good teacher, I think. I am animated. I don’t have a poker face amongst friends. I work in a town where I’m isolated so my only connections are with work.
this week I was pulled into a disciplinary session because I vented in my office. Apparently I should not be sharing negative experiences in front of other members of staff.
We teach in a difficult and isolated context. In our system we are not allowed to speak out against our employer for fear of reprisal. It’s explicitly stated that to speak poorly of our employer can result in dismissal. For the most part, I’m very happy with my employer – I earn a good wage and the support systems are there, so I don’t often have anything to say. However, now I am expected to also keep my mouth shut in my office. I am expected to be happy at all times. I prefer to keep my professional life and personal life separate, but it’s quite difficult to do that here where I literally know one other person outside of my working life. Our office used to be a bit more like this:
Not so much.
So if we’re not allowed to say a word about anything, anywhere, or to anyone… how are we supposed to control our emotions? We can’t just talk about the positive things happening in our classroom because if we don’t reflect on the bad things, how will we ever counter them? If we haven’t thought of the idea already, how can you get new ideas? Reading is an option, but isn’t a better resource a teacher who is already familiar with the context and the students?
I’m a little upset, disheartened, and confused.