I am fully aware the a "proper" blog generally consists of short to mid-length entries covering one topic.
Well, call me improper.
I think this entire mind-melt started while talking with fellow teachers over some drinks tonight. I firmly believe that teaching is one of the few professions that could potentially lead to alcoholism...if the people that did it weren't made of strong stock. Most of us enjoy one drink a week....or more....but I think we have good reasoning.
You see, when you love the students you work for, you can't just "leave it at work". It's not one of those jobs. It is a job where, no matter how hard you try, you take something from it home. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes, it's great things. For example, I've been talking with my 5th grade band students about how they should always produce a sound so pure and beautiful that they get a ring from the room. Once a week, we work on making the room "sing" with a simple, balanced, Bb major triad. Not hard for a trained musician, but it has been a steep learning curve for these kiddos.
Today, they did it on their first shot. And not only that, but they went on to impress me with their phrasing and their musicality in the piece we're currently working on.
If I took moments like this home every day, I can't even create an analogy to talk about what I would do.
Some days, though, you're battling everything. You have a Kindergartener that called another kid a "jerk" and then the other student cries....or bites the former student. You have at least one 1st grader that is so ADHD and ED that they should be seeing a counselor, but Mom/Dad don't believe in it, so he goes untreated and hurts not only himself, but others as well. You have some upper level elementary students who don't even know if their parents will be coming home tonight. Heck, they don't even know who will be taking them home or where home is for that matter. Then you've got an early Middle Schooler who gets picked on and, thus, upset to the point where they are pretending to gun down other students in the class.
And, you know what, those things would still be happening, even in a perfectly managed classroom (which mine is not, yet).
But you know what kills me the most? That a lot of these behavioral issues can be traced back to one source. That's right. The parents.
I am so lucky and blessed to have the parents that I do. I realize that more and more every day when I see what some of my students have for home lives. I cannot believe that we, as a nation, allow for this to exist. That, in our fierce defense of "the pursuit of happiness", we focus so much on achieving our own happiness that we don't think about what the consequences of that happiness might be. A woman who is addicted to various drugs, doesn't have a home, doesn't have a steady job, decides that one night of sex will make her happy. She gets pregnant and has a baby. Do you think she is really going to be so concerned about the happiness of that child that she is going to give up what she thought made her happy?
Remember, what you think makes you happy and what actually provides a source of happiness is vastly different.
I love my students. I would do anything for them. I will defend them to the end of the Earth and back if that's what it takes to ensure a positive future for them. But there are some situations in which I simply cannot do anything. And it frustrates me. The feeling of helplessness one feels when they go to bed, knowing that they have a safe place to sleep for the night and will have breakfast in the morning while they have multiple students out there who aren't going to bed well fed, with a safe place to sleep, and who have no idea what fate meets them tomorrow, is a complete one.
And yet, the most I can seemingly do for them every day during the week is give them structure, and attention, and rules, and expectations and let them know that I KNOW their life is a real shit pile right now, but that doesn't mean that they need to stay IN the shit. I'm realizing more and more that, besides all of the things that I just listed, I have the grand duty of providing my students with a sense of hope for not only their immediate lives, but for their future. I, and all of the other fantastic teachers at my school, have to prove to them that they need to have hope in themselves because WE have hope in them.
This world is a messed up place and, at the center of it, is today's youth.
How on Earth are we going to give them hope?