Today was a life changing day for me. I know that sounds super cheesy, but it’s true. I had the opportunity to attend a challenge day with a student and a co-worker. Here’s the thing: this year, I am extremely unhappy with my job. (You may have noticed the lack of funny and/or heartwarming blog entries about my days at school.) It’s hard for me to get up in the morning and go to work. I’ve been at my school for 4 years and I don’t feel like I’ve made any difference at all. It’s frustrating and heart-breaking to watch my kids (technically my students, but I always seem to refer to them as my kids) make the same mistakes over and over and over again. I have to watch kids I do truly care for repeating self-destructive behaviors every day and it seems like there’s nothing I can do about it. The system is flawed and I’m a part of that system. It’s extremely frustrating and tiresome. So… I put in for a transfer this year. I’m “tryin’ to leave them.” (That’s what they say.) I feel I have to leave this job for my own sanity and well-being, but there’s a insane amount of guilt that comes along with that decision, so I’ve been struggling with the idea all year. And still not wanting to go to work every day. Oh, and today I broke down in tears in front of a room of complete strangers about it.
This morning, the teachers were briefed about how the day-long program would run. We would start with funny dances. (duh! I’m great at that) Then have some fun activities, then break into small groups and sharing personal things with the kids in our groups. They told us that if we didn’t want to share personal things about the lives that we live now, we could always talk about what life was like for us back in high school. “Brilliant!” I thought, “I’ll just talk about being punk and my parents coming to terms with my purple hair, and getting made fun of at lunch.” Then I wouldn’t have to get too personal. I decided that’s what I would talk about for the 2 minutes I had to talk and share my story. However, I had to listen to the two group leaders compelling stories that moved me and the kid next to me to tears. When we broke off into small groups something had changed and I didn’t want to lie to these kids in this very real moment. When it was my turn I confessed to them that I had given up on my students. Following that sentence were my tears. (Lots of them.) I told them about how I put in for a transfer. About how it’s so hard to go to work every day and feel like you don’t make a difference. I mentioned that I had been there for 4 years and I was tired of seeing the pain and suffering that my students go through. And I cried. (Kind of a lot.) Then, these four kids, from different schools, who I had never met before today, each reached out, one by one, and hugged me. It was some serious real talk.
But wait, there’s more… Later, we had to all line up in a line and then the facilitator would say things like “If a family member or a friend has been injured or killed by a drunk driver please cross the line.” And then anyone who that applied to would cross the line and look back the the individuals still standing on the line. She said other things like “If you are a woman and have ever been degraded or mistreated simply because you’re a woman, please cross the line.” Or, “If you have ever been homeless, in foster care, or lived in a group home, please cross the line.” Or, “If a family member or friend has been injured or died because of gang violence, please cross the line.” This activity took place in absolute silence. No one spoke. We had a symbol to hold up our hand with the sign language sign for “I love you” to show support to one another without saying a word. There were many tears and many many hugs exchanged between people who a few hours before had been complete strangers. I watched some kids cross the line almost every time. It broke my heart. (oh, and there were more tears.)
I left today feeling more grateful for my life than I ever have. I have so many amazing people in my life and I don’t tell them nearly enough how much I love and appreciate them. So I’m saying it now. I love you. (Especially if you made it all the way through this insanely long post…I REALLY love you!) I realized today that I love my students (kids) too much to give up on them. Oh, and I also learned that maybe I do like hugging. I could possibly go in for a hug next time I see you. You’ve been warned.