Monday, September 27, 2010
"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat." -- Winston Churchill
Well, Mr. Churchill - may I call you Winston? - I have all that and more to offer my students and my coworkers. I have fifteen years of experience in public schools, more in private preschools and as a substitute teacher. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees. I have knowledge gained from myriad sources: classes, training sessions, professional institutes taught by experts in their fields. I have colleagues who help me apply that knowledge in useful and practical ways.
And I have my own blood, toil, tears, and sweat.
Have you ever been in an classroom in a 60-year-old brick building, with no air conditioning, with only two windows that open? Add 24 sweaty bodies after recess and you'll know sweat.
Have you ever followed a child across a playground in muggy heat, a child who knows how to keep one step ahead, a child who has emotional issues so extreme you worry about getting too close lest he run out into the street or into the nearby wooded area known to be a repository of broken bottles and sometimes syringes with needles? Even without the hot weather, it was a sweaty situation.
Student throws tantrum, shoves staff member.
Student throws another tantrum, kicks aide.
Student gets suspended for aggressive behavior.
Student returns from suspension. Teacher monitors mood, tension, calls on all de-escalation training and years of experience to keep him calm - alone. Because no one, but no one, stops in to check on student when he returns to school after his suspensions.
Feeling totally unsupported leads to tension, high blood pressure, and yes, tears.
This I can do. If hard work could solve the problems of all my students, life would be easy. I'm working on grant letters and looking up books to fit the needs of my hardest working, most struggling readers.
I'm also doing the research in advance on procedure for removing a dangerous student from class, even as I sincerely hope it won't be needed. Toil, perhaps unnecessary, but still toil.
Does swelling count? Physical pain? I've been teaching on an unexplained and undiagnosed swollen ankle for two weeks. My doctor must understand teachers. She didn't recommend I take several days off to heal; she suggested I teach sitting down whenever possible. I keep teaching through the pain, not calling a substitute, because that's what we do.
Winston, I know you made this statement in a time of a great world war. My battles are different. Instead of an enemy with bombs and troops, I fight poverty, apathy, budget cuts, and misinformation. In those battles I offer my knowledge, my experience, my continued professional connections, along with my blood, toil, tears, and sweat.Stumble It!