A Teacher’s Heart: It’s Finally Been Broken By Bureaucracy

Posted: September 11, 2012 in From Student to Teacher
Tags: , , , , ,

This is probably very cliche, but during my first year of teaching, in an Atlanta high school, as I faced fresh assaults each day from students who needed me more than I needed them (or so I told myself at the time), my department chairperson, the venerable saint, Naomi Hyder, told me, “Once those kids know how much you care, you will win them over.”  So, when they were throwing newspapers at me, laughing at me, trying to trip me, and a host of other entertaining activities, I kept reminding myself of her words, as I fought back the tears.

Eventually, it clicked. I grew to love the identical Cason twins, who were funny and sweet and quite bright. Felons and delinquents began hanging out with me during lunch.  They hated “that junk” they called Shakespeare and I learned to decipher their Ebonics, as we proceeded to work together in English Comp.

A small group of these children became my babies and we are still friends to this day.  I treasure their friendship and trust.  I’ve learned so much about life from listening to their stories and sharing my big mother’s heart to include them in my maternal embrace.  We’ve tried to get together at least once a year and have dinner.  Last year we came together, a mish mash of children, both mine and theirs, and spent a lovely day together, reminiscing and laughing our heads off.   I don’t know if they remember what iambic pentameter is, but they remember Shakespeare and they all graduated.

So, what does America need from teachers?

Adam Edgerton makes some outstanding points in his post on Huffingtonpost.com about teaching and education in the following article, “Why I Quit Teaching:”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-kirk-edgerton/teachers-unions-issues_b_1856371.html

It is difficult to reconcile with myself that I too quit teaching and feel like a loser for it feels as though I have abandoned all the kids I was supposed to meet and help wade past the muck of their lives to see their potential and guide them toward a little bit of knowledge. No, I certainly don’t miss “Sam” who sat back pretentiously each day and informed me of his complete and utter interest in my class because he was far too intellectually superior.  But being a teenager is hard and it is the calling of a teacher who is conscious of the complexities that cloud the lives of teenagers and tries to make learning relevant to life’s conundrums.

So many teachers have been inspired themselves by memorable figures who guided them and molded them and then set them off into the world, just a little bit wiser. I had those too.  Sister Margaret Dempsey, Mrs. Maria Pinto, Ms. Valente…these figures surely have a special place reserved for them in heaven.  People like these affirm my belief in a greater power and negate all that atheists profess.  People like them, and maybe people like me, have made a difference in so many lives, and inspired them to hang on when life seemed overwhelming.

See, I was a child who suffered terrible abuses at the hands of a relative, for years.  My body was a sexual sadist’s playground for half my childhood.  But my story is not unique.  Turn on the television and you’ll see.  Nevertheless, it made me stronger and it defined who I wanted to be as a mother and how I wanted to protect my own family.  It also aided my intuitiveness when I spotted the signs of students who needed someone to give a damn about them and their personal hell.

Anyway, I like Edgerton’s perspective on the problems, the abuses heaped on teachers, and also the tip of the iceberg on a solution for education.  The comments from so many teachers who also quit teaching made me think all night and almost made me cry because I felt that I wasn’t alone in what I had endured and battled for years.  Maybe some computer programming guru can create a site for teachers to come together and share and build a strong enough voice to make the case for education heard.

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Comments
  1. Ms. Nine says:

    Thank-you for posting the link to the Huffington Post. I was also affected by the multitude of comments.
    I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why I quit teaching; the reasons are complex and irreconcilable.

    I can identify with your feelings of loss. I believe we are experiencing the grieving process.
    Writing helps.

  2. LWP Elle says:

    Thank you for sharing that link. It’s truly sad to see so many teachers quit every year, but I understand what leads to it.

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