I am going to sound really old in this post. Just a heads up.
You all know I love my job and I love my kids. But man, this teaching thing isn’t easy and today it has tested my mental health. I cried all the way home, cried coming in the door, slipped in a puddle of wee, hurt my foot, became exceptionally angry, swore repeatedly at Max (the dog), locked him out, went for a shower, crying – no, sobbing – resumed, continued crying as I fed Molly, let Max back in, cried, replied to a couple of friend’s text messages – crying – and the thing that stopped the tears was Grant Denyer on Family Feud. It settled me.
But then I started thinking.
And now I don’t want to go to work.
Some boys were running around and playing silly buggers. Loudly. Outside my staff room. Out of bounds. One said he had hurt himself. Laughing. Ignoring my instructions. Not a nice kid at the best of times – argues with teachers all of the time and refuses to accept any responsibility for anything. He told me to, “Wait!” In that adolescent tone.
Every parent must have been subjected to that tone at least once by the time their children leave home.
Anyway, the older boy he had been mucking around with came up to accept responsibility. Long and short of it the situation escalated when I thought the second boy was being highly disrespectful to another staff member by yelling at her. She was walking away and he continued yelling so I told him to be quiet and when I was ignored I told him to shut up.
He went red in the face, tensed his body and arms, puffed his chest out, and stormed at me.
I was terrified. I thought he was going to hit me. Unbeknownst to me one of my staff members had heard what was going on, saw him storm at me, and stood behind me. In retrospect, this was probably what stopped him hitting me. As he walked away he told me how lucky I was.
Yep. I felt very lucky.
I have a reputation as a bit of a hard arse. But I am fair. If I make a mistake I own it, and I go well beyond the call of duty to help kids out, often sacrificing myself to do it. And the real truth is, I am quite a softie.
I don’t like being the tough one; it isn’t organic to me.
And I experienced a very violent childhood. I don’t like violence. I don’t like conflict. It hurts my soul.
This is the second time this year I have felt threatened by a male student, truly believing they would hit me. I hold my own but then I crumble. Away from them.
I am a human. Not a robot.
At another school I did six months at when I was on leave from my heart school (the one I teach at now), I literally shielded a Year 9 student with my body as a mob of kids threw punches, kicked at him and screamed names. Most of the blows landed on me. I managed to get him to a classroom and lock us in as the mob descended against the doors and windows.
The school did not support me. They did nothing.
Earlier this year the other student wasn’t suspended. He and I resolved it because that’s how I work.
But I can’t do that this time. This is the third one.
When I was a much younger teacher, fighting every cause, my Head Teacher took care of me and told me I needed to pick my battles or I would burn out. She told me to ask myself, “Is this the hill you want to die on?”
It has given me longevity and taught me how to play smart.
I cannot believe that the student today believes that what he did was acceptable. That he even has the right to do that to another human being. I have supported him for three and a half years.
But no more.
Tomorrow is going to be a struggle for me. It is my faculty’s Creative and Performing Arts Showcase; I can’t miss school.
But I want to.
Yes, I’m strong. I’m resilient.
But I am also worth more than how I was treated today. I deserve more.
What is happening to our society?
What makes these children believe they have the right to violate another human being’s rights? And what is wrong with a society that permits it, and an education system that doesn’t protect its teachers?
High rates of burn out. Young teachers leaving the system in droves.
I wonder why.