Being Ms. B

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 25 2012

In which it’s not ok

Teaching is one big identify crisis, I write confusedly on the far side of Spring Break, perhaps a side effect of being somewhat refreshed, rejuvenated, renewed.

Warning: This is about to get heavy.  I don’t think I make a single joke or snide comment in this entire post.  I might even say something negative about an organization to which I belong.  So if you’re opposed to those things, see you later, come back next week and I’ll charm you with something adorable that one of my children is bound to say between now and then.  No hard feelings, I promise.

That said…

On vacation with my family this week, there were a lot of honest conversations about my job and about my relationship with TFA.  Where are they going?  Where do I see myself in 5 years?  Does it matter right now?

At one point, my mother turned around in the car, and remarked that she was beginning to think that I sometimes liked my job, and maybe even in a weird way, liked where I was doing it.

You, gentle reader, know how bizarre it is for me to hear that I must like my job.  But the truth is, in the past two months, I have begun to enjoy some parts of this insane career path upon which I have been thrust.  And liking my job (a little) and my life (a lot) more than I did during the Dark Times has the amazing ability to help me forget about how miserable I used to be.

During the umpteen hours that I spent in the Phoenix airport, I had the opportunity to flip through the notepad on my iPad, stumbling across a blog post that I wrote months ago.  It was about a sick day that I took due to a migraine and, you know, depression.  117 days ago, I wrote this paragraph:

How, how, how can I make it better?  For them [the kids], but frankly, more importantly, for me.  Because contrary to the beliefs of the old, invincible me, it is no longer a question of if, it is a question of when.

For perspective, 117 days ago means that I wrote this on November 29th, virtually immediately after returning from what should have been one of the first lovely, restorative breaks of the school year.   And reading that line (in what was already a generally depressing post) made my heart wrench.

I felt like that?

And that was ok?

Please don’t misunderstand, the general transformation of the past few months has not been easily won.  It has been intentional, deliberate, painstaking.  Furthermore, I cry BS to the trainers and motivators who have told me , amidst crowds of other first year teachers, that these peaks and valleys are normal and pre-determined.  Boo hockey.  I have fought, and with my own bare hands (and the combined love of my friends and my family and some beautiful, beautiful teachers that I am privileged to know) I have changed that “when” to an “if” to a “probably not.”

And look, it’s somewhat dangerous for me to say much more than that on the internet, but please notice the group of people that doesn’t appear in that list of supports.  It truly bothers me that this group of absentees isn’t more concerned about the mental health of its constituency, but anything else I have to say about the topic (and there’s a lot) will show up in the much-anticipated tell all.

In theory, as teachers, we’re supposed to be All About The Children.  We are nothing without them, and they mean more than our health, our happiness, our sanity.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying the kids aren’t important (they are).

But what I am saying, shouting, screaming, is that what I went through and how I felt Was Not OK.  And what I am saying, shouting, screaming, is that it needs to be a priority.  Because for you 2012s out there (I love you, we love you, it’s going to be ok), we need to be so much better than we are right now.

6 Responses

  1. Theresa Lozac'h

    Good for you. Only took me 15 years of teaching to realize that my health is AS important as the children. We are both important and the system (whoever that is) needs to support us both to work – plain and simple. :)

  2. els

    Dude, I don’t even remember what having a comfort zone is like anymore. I’m slowly recovering my personality and my sense of self, though, and treating myself with respect for respect. Teaching is so demeaning, it’s easy to lose yourself.

  3. CY

    I really don’t understand how people can immerse themselves so deeply into this that they internalize this: “In theory, as teachers, we’re supposed to be All About The Children. We are nothing without them, and they mean more than our health, our happiness, our sanity.” I am so thankful that I am grounded enough not to have bought into that.

    • katb

      It’s a crazy mindset, I’ll give you that. And it’s great to hear that not all CMs had to go through it. However, as a once and future grounded person, I did go through it. Sometimes you can’t swerve to avoid these things just because you’re awesome, and that’s what I want people and especially new CMs to know.

  4. Girls' Fiction


    I can only agree wholeheartedly with you. I personally believe that teachers cannot be effective if they are not feeling healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically. The tolls of this job on my confidence were not something I expected as we sat in Girls’ Fiction as juniors. Let’s talk at PSAT.

    • katb

      absolutely, I’ll be the cranky one with the big cup of coffee.

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