And the mask crumbles.

I wore my big girl pants all day today, until ten minutes ago when the tears came sobbing out as I drove closer to home. Too late to go and get a hug from someone, especially with a shit load of marking to do.

I have changed as a teacher. The compassionate, loving creature that this year’s Years 11 and 12 know, I don’t think the younger years have met. It’s sad. This me is a cool teacher. But, fuck, it’s hard.

When I have taught, prior to this year, I was all in. Heart. Mind. Soul. No wonder I have burnt out.

I remember this heart break and all the prior heart breaks, fresh. Belinda has said that this is our seventh student loss. I’ve been close to every single one. And, that’s not the hardest part.

No, the hardest part is watching the kids left behind, breaking in front of you, while you stand with them, powerless to fix their pain, to take the hurt away, to stem the flow of tears. We can only hold them, tell them we love them, and say, “Yep. This is fucked,” as we hold them tighter, scared we might lose them too. Scared that we won’t be enough. Scared … just plain scared. Whilst we break too.

No child should go before old age. But, they do. All of the time. It’s devastating.

I told a couple of the kids today that we honour Blake’s life by becoming our best selves, living our best lives. And, I believe this.

Death of loved ones changes us. It doesn’t matter who we are; death and grief are equalizers.

I am holding a lot of anger towards the senselessness of this, and the selfish arrogance of the ‘perpetrator’. I’ll work through it. He has people grieving him and praying for his recovery. I am sure if he had a chance to do over, he would change each decision that resulted in this devastation. Still …

It’s hard as a teacher. People don’t expect us to have these deep emotions for our kids. We do though. It’s hard not to. We see them every day. We see them at their best and at their worst. You get to know their souls, and you get to help them navigate their way through this sketchy thing called life.

I will never forget many things about Blake: white bloody shoes and a myriad of other ongoing uniform infringements, cheeky grin, stubborn spirit, his compassion and love for those he was closest to, and his honesty.

I had a conversation with him during 2016, before I left, that really highlighted his maturity and battler spirit. I will never forget it. It reminded me of how much some of our kids contend with to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Blake was a survivor.

I believe (ever so gratefully) that his spirit lives on. That his cheeky grin is a flicker away. And that his life will continue to impact those he knew positively through death. Some things just live on.

For now, my big girl pants are with my mask, away for the night, and as I tell the kids, I’m being real and doing what I need to do to self-care and to move through this, peacefully. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to vent. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to do whatever you need to do.

❤️🙏🏻💦

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