The last 65 hours or so have been intense. Oh my!
By Thursday morning I was a broken woman. I walked into school truly believing I was going to leave my job. Friday would be my last day in teaching as I knew it.
I was resolved. I had worked out that I had enough in savings to support myself for a few months and had finally, for the first time in I don’t know how long, put my needs and my happiness first … Above everyone elses’s.
Huge moment of realisation of my own growth. For eighteen weeks I have been a yo-yo. I love being in my classroom, love my colleagues, love being part of something. As my current boss says, the fulfillment that comes from teaching kids is second to none. But I was willing to sacrifice that for whole happiness.
I have blogged before about the insanity of hours that modern day teaching and leading requires. Being part of a system of education often leaves the individuals feeling lost and unvalued. We are all mere cogs in a machine; no acknowledgement of our value as our employer uses us as pawns to fulfill political agendas that have little to do with the needs of our kids and society. Definitely not teacher needs.
After eighteen weeks of roller coaster rides, long hours, no work life balance, a broken teacher sat in front of her boss and said, eyes downcast, hands in pockets, body slumped over, tears flowing, I am broken.
He asked why. I explained the feeling of utter demoralisation that I felt. Raw to the core. And I didn’t really stop crying throughout it all. I don’t break in front of people easily. I break in writing and on my own, but not really in front of people. In 45 years of life, I can count the times I have felt safe enough to break in front of others on two hands.
And, he heard me. Like, really heard me. And after I left him, not realising that he had heard me, I continued to release 18 weeks of exhaustion and pain and frustration and not knowing through sobs absolutely wracking my body.
And then I went to Year 11 and taught strategies of mindfulness to them.
Before the end of this lesson, which I was very late to, my boss was at my door, DP in tow to take my class, to take me back to his office to let me know that he had removed the straw that broke my back. He outlined how he was going to remove it. And he outlined why. And I sat in shocked silence.
I am still shocked. I am still employed. I am not sure what will happen next year but for the next six months, my workload focus has shifted and I was heard.
An amazing gift to give someone. Hearing another person, especially a broken person, reading and seeing through the broken mess, and hearing the validity of what they say, breaking from the institutional mire to do what is right for them, is a phenomenal gift to give.
And to receive.
It was the first gift I received on Thursday. The second gift came from a very unexpected source.
Kids just want to be seen, heard and loved (much like adults; our shared humanity). So many kids are damaged by adults betraying their trust and basic needs. A lot of our kids are at least a little broken by the time they come to us.
One of my students is fighting each day to live a life irrespective of the baggage of her past which continues to sit with her (well, really a lot of my kids do this). On Thursday though, this particular student gave me some of her personal writing to read.
And on Thursday night I read it.
And I realised that she hadn’t just given me writing to read, she had given me the gift of trust and of her soul to read. The papers in front of me represented her life and her journey to discover herself and her place in this world. They were significantly more than words on a page.
And I was truly humbled.
And I am very raw, very vulnerable, but proud of myself for standing up for myself, my needs, and saying that I am worth more. Proud of myself for not being petulant and entitled, but articulate (amidst tears), honest, and willing to value myself.
Damaged children become damaged adults. Yes, we work to heal ourselves and we work to keep moving forward, and we work to change the world, but the damage, the broken-ness inspires that. And sometimes we have glimpses that the healing process continues. This week was that.
I cried the last eighteen weeks out. The pressure of following an inhumane, unjust process with no end in sight whilst my core principles scream to fight it to the bitter death, cried out of me. Years of not really believing my worth and value but gradually embracing it as a teacher knowing that I still need to find it as a human, cried out of me.
And, finally standing up for myself and finding that I do believe I am worth more, deserve better, and am willing to give the gift I give others every day, back to myself. Empowering.
Despite, maybe because of it, we all deserve to be heard and deserve our unique gifts to be acknowledged. And we deserve, and need to, acknowledge them ourselves first.
It’s okay for me to say I am a brilliant teacher, not because I get it right all of the time, or because my lessons are always the best and most engaging (far from it), but because I care, I grow, I learn and I keep trying.
I don’t give up on myself, and this week I was willing to fight for myself because my kids deserve a happy and valued teacher. I deserve the life I want to live.
We all do.