Today was nonstop, but that’s not really remarkable. That’s pretty much par for the course as an elementary school teacher. What’s making today stand out for me is how clearly it illustrates the challenges teachers are facing. Today feels a bit like a textbook example of what it means to be a teacher in 2022. (It should be noted that I have one student ‘on pause’ because a family member tested positive so I have to make sure I post assignments in our LMS and open zoom for our focus lessons three times per day.)
I have multiple students with diagnosed anxiety disorders. I would find that surprising, given that I teach third graders, but my oldest was diagnosed at about this age and these kids, in their own ways, remind me so much of her.
One of these kiddos had a pretty good day today. There was a lot of need for attention from me and confirmation that they were doing okay. But that’s normal. There weren’t any tears or meltdowns. On the whole, the day went smoothly.
Another one wasn’t as lucky today. Something went wrong at P.E. (during which time I was giving a prospective colleague a tour of the building and being a part of her interview). By the time I got on the scene, a half hour or more later, the poor kiddo was basically in the fetal position at the foot of the stairs by our gym. One of our amazing counselors, another phenomenal teacher, and a rockstar IA were all there trying to help. The IA agreed to pick my class up from their special and take them back to the room to grab their snacks (bonus that it was that simple in that moment) while I stayed with this friend to help.
Maybe because this poor kiddo had been coping with this situation for so long, they were able to talk to me about it once the stairwell cleared. It was probably the first time all year this kid had been able to talk about what happened and what they needed. They weren’t sure why they had been so impacted (the impetus was a pretty small thing) and that makes total sense to me. It was, I think, the straw that broke the back, not the one thing that caused the problem. We managed to talk a bit and then go back to the room. I needed something from the office so I sent this kiddo with a note, which gave them even more of a break. By the time snack was over, they were ready to play strategy games with friends without a problem.
When I think about today, I’m struck by the constant need to be on and serving others in some way. From 9:00 am, when kids first began arriving in my room, until almost 4:30 pm, when the last one left, I had, at most, 20 minutes to myself, when I ate my lunch. Otherwise I was teaching, working with kids in small groups or one on one, or being a part of the interview process for this prospective colleague.
That is a lot. It is exhausting. It requires mental and physical stamina.
And then, a kid hits the wall and needs A LOT more from me.
That’s what it is to be a teacher. Anytime, but especially right now. The needs are constantly changing, shifting. It’s one of the things that has kept me in this job. It is a challenge again and again. I can’t get complacent. I have to keep learning, keep growing, keep trying to be better.
It is also exhausting. I’m tired and not sure how much I can keep giving kids all they need and deserve.