Suddenly, I remember to breathe. Had I been walking around, talking to students, eating my lunch two hours late, redirecting a child, THAT child, and forgetting to breathe? My lungs were sore. My body, too. As if they had been continuing on about their day without my brain giving it much thought. My brain, of course, was elsewhere.

My brain was, is, will be on THAT child. We’ll call him Mick. You know Mick, dear reader. There’s that sweet side, asking while replacing his k’s and g’s, “Mrs. Chai-toe wanna hud?” There’s that untapped potential when you hear his extensive understanding of a book read aloud he only half listened to. And then, there’s…everything else. The stomping. The repeated and forceful physical contact on himself, peers, and me. The shrieking. And the most recently, the confusion in his eyes. Just when I think I’ve figured out what Mick needs to be successful, he pulls the rug out from under me and laughs in my face (I wish this was an exaggeration). It feels as if this small child can see my darkest insecurities – as a teacher and as a person – and manipulate them to fit his desires for the day. My assistant or I spend the entire day one on one with Mick.

There’s frustration. There’s guilt. There’s nineteen other impressionable, thoughtful children in my class (over half with high language needs) that are craving my attention. Attention I can’t give them. As they watch me get repeatedly kicked and screamed at.

There’s a lot of love and support for Mick throughout the building. There’s a lot of faith that the strategies my colleagues give me will work, and that I will also be able to serve the rest of my class simultaneously. There’s a lot of pressure on me to do everything with a smile. But I don’t feel happy. I have the feeling that you get when you’ve held your breath too long underwater. Like you’re in a nightmare. Like your life is flashing before your eyes. And you don’t know how far it is to the surface.

I know I should be grateful – I have a job, I have great colleagues, I only have 20 students when I could have 27, I have a large team supporting me………….and I am. I am grateful. But do they realize how many little moments I miss? The moment when Soren used a reading strategy for the first time. The moment when Tommy actually stayed engaged for an entire read aloud. The moment when Dave said his first words in English after being receptive for three months. The moment when Elizabeth solved a problem at recess independently. It’s not Mick that’s keeping me underwater, it’s the immense guilt of being trusted to shape young minds and only really being there for part of it.


9 thoughts on “Drowning

  1. I don’t think you need to worry about your gratitude, I think you need more support. Yes, we do all know ‘Mick’, who you described so well through actions. Many of us know the toll it takes on the teacher who has that constant adrenaline overdose,, because of watching out so vigilantly for this student’s moods and reactions, to other students and to you. And yes, the guilt you speak of is so real, and yes, those other kiddos need you too. I know my school has made strides in having a “counseling suite” that can take in a Mick who has gone out of control in the classroom. Just when he most needs it. You deserve some breathing space.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Please don’t be hard on yourself for not being perfect. It sounds like you have an immensely difficult job, and at least four of the children (in your last graf) have made breakthroughs. You can only do the best you can, and you have a team helping you. I admire you for even trying, since I know I could never do what you are doing. And only you can know how much you can take. But don’t feel guilty for not being everything to every one of your charges. Maybe you can only focus on one child at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I want to hug you. I know students like Mick for sure. I was the music teacher, so I only had them for little bits throughout the week, but even I felt the stress. And then I know the teacher was drowning just like you. I have definitely witnessed this: “There’s a lot of faith that the strategies my colleagues give me will work, and that I will also be able to serve the rest of my class simultaneously. There’s a lot of pressure on me to do everything with a smile.” It must be so taxing on you. I’m so sorry. I wish you could enjoy your job more. I can only hope for better days. And maybe lots of wine?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I couldn’t have read this at a better time. I, too, feel like I am drowning with many of your same thoughts and a couple of “Micks” in my class. It’s exhausting, heartbreaking, frustrating, and so much more. Know you are not alone…
    I search for answers every day. I pray. I feel guilty. Anxiety.
    I have to believe deep down that we are doing the best we can and to just breathe through the hard parts. I have to believe that we are having more of an impact on more students that we think. And I have to believe that we are teaching the other kids that empathy and compassion are part of what learning to be in school is about — just as much as the academics.
    Take care of yourself. Do you have a break coming?


  5. I know this feeling all too well, and the guilt and stress you are feeling is real. It’s hard to shake. I would ask for more support, push for a one-on-one SPED aide for him. Is that a thing at your school? It is at mine. You need to do the best you can for all your students, but understand that some students need more than others. Hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s admirable that teachers return day after day to put every bit of energy into moving Mick forward in his learning, problem solving and life skills. You deserve a medal that you will NEVER be awarded. Mick might remember you and he might not. Thank you for what you do.

    Liked by 1 person

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