reflection, students

Teachers Have Feelings Too

He clears his throat, 41 sets of eyes on him.  “My poem has no title…”

It goes something like this….

Wake up, breakfast, school bus
Torture, torture, torture
Torture, torture, torture
Torture, torture, torture

Snickers, glances at me, back to him, I make a funny joke out of it, but inside I am reeling.

At the end of the day, I pull him aside and I ask what the purpose was to share that poem?  Do I torture him all day?  Is that what I do?  He says no, he was trying to be funnymaybe but has no real explanation and I get tears in my eyes and tell him, “Teachers have feelings too.  And words have power…”

So I leave school feeling like a failure, feeling like I was made a fool just for fun, wondering if he felt  the need to share it with 2 classes to see what my reaction was?  I don’t think I gave him the reaction he wanted, I am pretty sure he wanted anger, but I don’t get angry when students share how they feel, I only reflect.  And yet, the way in which he shared these feelings, whether accurate or just for laughs, haunts me throughout my weekend.

As teachers we are expected to be bulletproof.  We are expected to stand with our shoulders back, willing to take on any criticism anyone may have.  We are expected to take it in stride.  To grow from the words ladled our way.

Yet teachers have feelings too.

We are supposed to continue fighting when seemingly the whole world wants to beat us down for things that are out of our control.

We are supposed to smile through our tears, laugh through our personal pains, and teach, teach, teach no matter what.

Yet teachers have feelings too.

We are expected to make it engaging, interesting, new, and informative.  We are expected to help students grow, become the people we hope they become, and create lasting bonds all while taking whatever words are thrown at us and ducking them.

We tell students that words have power and yet sometimes we wish they didn’t.  We suppress our feelings whenever a parent gets angry, a child fails to understand a concept, and we take full responsibility even when it is not all ours to take.  But sometimes the weight of all those words cracks us just a little.

We try every day to make school a place that children want to come even though some politicians are trying to turn it into a place where students are numbers and we are too.  When we are told how we fail as teachers we are supposed to agree, learn from it, and return to class as if nothing has happened.  But we are human, we take pride in what we do, we invest not just our time but our essence, and so when someone tells me that what I do is torture, it leaves me with the wind knocked out of me, unsure of what to do next.

I am teacher and I have feelings too, even if I try to hide them behind jokes, squared shoulders, mand determined strides.  So do I teach my students that?

17 thoughts on “Teachers Have Feelings Too”

  1. Earlier this year, my advanced students and I were talking about technology and obsolescence and one student brought up how school is obsolete (a statement I've heard on Twitter and blogs more than once). I entertained it, even when it became a discussion about what teachers don't teach/what teachers suck/etc. A couple of months later, on a district benchmark exam there was a short answer question about issues teenagers face these days and she wrote a screed about how adults are the problem and how they need to learn to respect teenangers, etc. I entertained this as well, giving her the full credit because it was a clearly expressed and argued opinion.She is very intelligent, and I've heard more than one person in my building praise that intelligence. And I'm sure that his sentiments are on trend with everyone's PLN and tweetchats and #stuvoice and everything else I'm subjected to on social media on a regular basis.BUT … this is someone who never turns anything in on time, if at all, unless I'm calling mommy; sometimes chooses to offer silly comments instead of insights in classes and has derailed more than one discussion; and has this very arrogant air. I know I'm not supposed to take it personally and I know I'm supposed to put students first, but I have no respect for it. Sorry, I know that's counter to what I'm supposed to be as a teacher, but how can you expect me to show respect to someone who has no respect at all for me or the job I'm trying to do? And how can you expect me to try in the midst of all that?

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Pal. Really mattered to me this morning as I struggle to figure out how to make grinding through a massive curriculum in a year engaging to my 12 year olds.I think what kids miss out on is that we aren't really the source of the torture. We're just charged with administering the punishment.#ickThinking of you, Bill

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this Pernille. You are so right, we do put on our happy face and just keep moving on but it does takes its toll. You have inspired me so much, know that you are loved!Robyn

  4. It does seem like we have to be bullet proof, and I have experience just that feeling. Sometimes my kids cheer at the thought of wasted class time, or seem bored with our work. I try so hard each day to make it relevant, meaningful and engaging, but sometime it is just work that needs to be done. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pernille always reminds me that although reason and the intellect are key to what we do, all learning must pass through the filter of our emotions. When we accept that we are better able to navigate life as a teacher.

  6. WOW! Thanks for sharing this personal post- it really resonated with me on so many levels! So today, while a child was having a tantrum, I was trying to calm him down when he started yelling at me and saying that I am retarded and that he hates me. Although I didn't get upset but the words did sting a bit. We pour our hearts and souls into this career and one little comment can really rattle us. It's an intense profession!Thanks again for sharing this reflection – really powerful!

  7. What a powerful post. I tend to feel this way every spring as school draws to a close. My 8th graders are antsy for summer and over school, especially the onslaught of testing. I try not to take the comments personally (you know, from the student who tells me every day that reading is dumb and schools waste taxpayer money on technology), butch the do slip through the cracks and get under my skin.

  8. Your posts are always spot ON! Thank you for helping us to know that we are all human.

    I was recently at a funeral and was told that I was thought of as the “mean” teacher who gives lots of homework.

    If by “mean,” that means I am the one who does hold high expectations, the one who follows through on tracking down missing work and asks them to stay in at recess to do it, who actually expects students to follow the rules and be quiet in the hall out of respect to other classrooms, the one who won’t accept behavior that is hurtful to others, the one who will advocate for you with your math/reading/music/art teacher, the one who will meet with you at lunch or recess to go over something you are struggling with, the one who pushes you to be and do your best, the one who gives out her home phone number on the first day of school so you can call if you get stuck on homework, the one who lets your mom pick up your forgotten book/folder/paper at 5:50 because I am still at school, the one who makes Sunday afternoon/evening calls once or twice a month to report great success or progress…yep, that’s me, alright. (Side note – we all give exactly the same homework in my grade level.)

    It hurt. It still hurts a month later. The person she was quoting has called, texted, emailed, and spoken to me in person to thank me for all I did for her children – two, over the course of a couple of years. She recently texted to tell me of something one child was doing and that something we did two years ago is still paying off for her child.

    Did she stop to think when she said these words years ago that they would hurt me? No. Did she think these words would hurt me even years in the future? No. But it does hurt. Still. Yes, Pernille, words have power. And, yes, teachers have feelings.

  9. Oops – didn’t get my final thoughts on the previous reply..
    So, my take-away learning doesn’t focus on my own hurt feelings, but on being impeccable with my own words (from the wonderful book, The Four Agreements) because it does take quite a number of positive statements to counterbalance one single negative comment.

    I teach my students to think of four fingers as a “gate” in front of their mouths: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Would you be happy if someone said that about or to you? As adults, we often reply in a reactionary manner without considering the impact of our words.

    Thanks again, Pernille!

  10. Thanks for posting this story. Really needed to see that I am not alone in this tough,yet rewarding career of teaching. Sigh! I so needed this!

  11. I was passing out work (I am a middle school Visual Arts teacher) and asked “who’s work is this?” One student replied your momma’s. As her table of friends thought this was funny I tried to explain that I had just lost my mom and that her comment was very disrespectful. When I told them my mom had passed away they erupted in laughter. I was physically sick to my stomach and hurt to the core. I have debated whether to confront these girls or just let it go. We are told repeatedly not to take things personally but we are expected to pour our hearts and soul into our jobs.

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