It’s Monday morning and my thoughts are returning to my school, my classroom, my students. This is my second year at this school. It so very different than where I have spent the prior 34 years. My first two years I was in a small school, 110 students, where I taught social studies to 5th to 8th grade, coached and directed musicals. My next thirty-two were in affluent suburbs, nine in one and twenty-three in another. Now I’m here, by choice, after retirement from another state. I wanted to make a difference in a place, where free breakfast and lunch is given to all students, where the struggle is greater, where most parents aren’t involved, where resources are not as plentiful.
As teachers we deal with extreme behaviors every single day. Students flip furniture, run out of the room, hit, fight, cuss and are defiant. This is an elementary school. It’s in all of our rooms. We have students suspended and yet it continues. There are many children that do try to learn but they are traumatized by the others who disrupt learning daily. It’s why there is such a high turnover rate here. Last year fourteen teachers left, many grades had only one teacher returning. I was that one this year. We have also had six principals since I’ve been here and just learned our current interim will be returning to his former role as a vice principal at a middle school after this year. No one seems to have answers, I have fewer now than I did a year ago.
We learned last week that we can no longer have any pillows, cushions or even stuffed animals in our rooms. We needed to have them removed by Friday. We are only allowed one lamp in our rooms now too. Our efforts to create welcoming spaces and areas for students to take time out when needed are disappearing. As I returned from an afternoon meeting, 30 minutes before the end of the day, anything I hadn’t yet packed up was in a pile in the hall. The custodian with his ladder was making his rounds, no room was left untouched. Tears filled my eyes as I retrieved my belonging and brought them to my car. These kids have so little and yet we are forces to take away more.
A friend from one of my former districts asked if I’d be coming back next year. Honestly I don’t know. I know I’ve made a difference for many. The kids need me, but so many barriers are in place. I’m not sure I’m always safe here as students rage out of control. The stress of dealing with these constant behaviors isn’t healthy. We don’t have the support needed to make things better. We are like a MASH unit in triage, saving what we can.
It’s Monday morning and my thoughts are returning to my school, my classroom, my students. I have two returning from suspensions and one out today for threatening another student putting a straightened paperclip to his throat. I have to remind myself that they are only third graders, that they need a safe place, that I need to keep trying.