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.