Monday, October 01, 2007

I don't know if I'm cut out for this...

Something happened today that's making me wonder if I'm cut out to be a teacher. It has nothing to do with my knowledge of my subject matter or my ability to manage a classroom. Those things are easy compared with what I had to deal with today. I think I become too emotionally invested to be a teacher. I can't deal with what some of these kids have to deal with.

One of my girls was raped over the weekend, and I'm the only person besides her foster mother and hospital staff that she told. I don't know how to comfort her. I know I can't comfort her. I don't know how to speak to her because I don't want her to think that my crying for her is because I think less of her, but instead because I can't believe how strong she is for having the courage to not only report what happened, but to also name her attacker and press charges. And that I'm crying for her loss because she'll never have that childhood back. And there will be a part of her that will never get over this. But I can't say this to her. She called, and I was helpless.

And I can't deal with that helplessness. I know if this is something I'm going to do for the rest of my life, I'm going to be helpless.


M said...

being empathetic and being able to feel for your students makes you a better teacher I think. Of course it makes it harder for you.

nobody said...

Remember, for this child, your ear is one of the greatest helps she'll get. The helplessness you feel is going to be a benefit for her, even if it means you can only hear the story.

Being emotionally involved is not a problem in this case. You're her shoulder.

RJH said...

When I taught my senior elective (an English class focusing on law and ethics) I would end the year with a discussion about sexual assault and rape. My logic was simple: I had seniors, most of whom were headed to college. They needed to be told what to watch out for.

Obviously, this wasn't easy to discuss. I always asked the kid's permission, and always allowed them to leave if they didn't want to be there. The boys were always respectful, and took it as their duty to keep an eye on their peers. The girls have told me later that it was the only advice they consistently remembered and followed in school.

But without fail, every year, at least one kid would come up and say something which would let me know they'd been assaulted. It was never enough to really report (I let the school resource officer know more than once, but they weren't talking) but the sick, sad fact is that many of our kids are victims.

If your kid can trust you enough to confide in you, then it says a great deal about what you're doing right. The number one thing we can be for our kids is there for them. I don't think we can be too invested in our kids, in their happiness, in their safety. Count yourself as doing the right thing, in many ways, for being the teacher they can go to.

And then remember to forgive yourself. You did all you could, and will continue to do so.


jj19 said...

Teaching is a field I don't think you can seperate your emotions from. Emotions are what makes us good teachers. Interesting enough - one of our girls has been out a while and returned yesterday with news that she too was raped over the summer and has now finally told her mother. She is upset, lost and I had no idea what to say to her either.

:-) said...

I can't even explain to you how I got to your site, but I am a teacher, currently working on my graduate degree, and we had an assignment in which we were to go through different web resources that we were given--somehow I got to your blog. It breaks my heart to read your post, but I wanted to just encourage you today to "stay invested". I know it tears you apart to see what these kids go through everyday, but it is people like you that make such a difference. This girl needs someone to "lean on" right now; someone that believes in her when she is questioning everything. You do so much more than teach. You mentor young minds and mold character. Who is to say that you were not chosen for such a time a this? You will always leave a little piece of your heart with each student you truly reach. When you get as old as I am and you look back you will find that it is moments like these that define your purpose in life. If she chose to come to you, she knows that you believe in her and that you see a future for her that she so desperately wants, but doesn't know how to pursue.

My prayers are with you today!

A fellow teacher in Florida

the anonymous teacher said...

Thank you all so much for your support. I just don't know how to separate my emotional involvement with my professional responsibilities...if that makes any sense?? I feel like this experience has changed how I behave in my classroom, and I don't think it's for the better. Maybe it's because it's still fresh. Maybe because it's ongoing. I hope it's one of those things that time can help heal.

dleh said...

Your concern and empathy for your suffering student is a testament to your character as a person and as a teacher. Never underestimate the power of your simple presence to "walk with" a student who has been hurt. You may not have the answers.

You may not be the savior in this situation. But, she will always "remember" that you cared. That in itself is a very healing gift to share. She knows she is not alone.
As for yourself, do not get discouraged or give up. The world is filled with hurting children.
As a teacher, you have a unique gift to share in helping kids by your presence. Keep the balance by taking care of yourself emotionally. All people in our profession can "burn out" by the pain we deal with. Continue to find ways to bring healing and wholeness into your personal life.
From this, you stay connected to the Source that brings you healing and not burnout.

wd said...

I am sorry to hear that this has happened to your student and I understand the pain you are going through in knowing her pain.
I don't think we can learn to separate our emotions from our profession. Being a caring and empathic teacher requires emotions. I think that knowing our kids is painful at times but what we are here for. We teach young people and that means that sometimes they will open a window for us to view their lives and sometimes this window opens into some scary stuff. You are not alone in your emotions.

Ms. H said...

I totally meant to comment when I first read your post....damn that web-blocker on the school computer!!

My heart hurts for you. I know how hard it is to watch your kiddos hurt...even harder than going through something yourself. You'll get through this...and the experience will help prepare you for another kiddo down the road that's hurting....but doesn't know how to put it into words.

Don't you dare consider another career. This career needs MORE people like you. NOT less.
(This is where you salute, and say, "Yes, Ma'am. Ms. H, ma'am. You're absolutely right, ma'am."


:-) said...

How are you doing this week??

the anonymous teacher said...

Thank you all for your concern. I appreciate the support. Things are going better this week. My kids are bouncing off the walls, but I'm more emotionally stable than I was last week. I've talked to this little girl several times, and she is still very detached from everything. I worry about when it hits her, but I've come to realize I can't do much more than be there. Ah, the helplessness.

carolinw said...

I am currently studying to become a teacher. This blog entry has shown me that teaching isn't simply learning about my subject and how to teach it. Teaching is so much more than that and will provide a vast amount of obstacles to be overcome.

I think that you should feel honored that this student trusted you enough to open her heart up to you. Obviously, you're doing something right!

mewmewmew said...

I too have felt the guilt from the public punishment. What I did was find some way to praise the individual students for working hard in class the next day, but do so as part of a larger list o' individual compliments. That allowed me to praise them, and integrate them into the larger group again.

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