Thursday, January 1, 2015

Teacher Strong

A whopping two blog posts published in 2014.  

What gives?

Loss. Then grief.

There is not much good about grief, Charlie Brown.

Grief dug in and dragged me down this past year. The initial stages of grief--all necessary and normal, the experts say--left me feeling unhealthy in many ways.  Spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and psychologically--I was dribble. Close friends and family did not recognize me. Grief left me despondent, unmotivated, scattered, and self-absorbed.
During this emotional fog, a healthy relative told me, “Give grief time and it will become another &#*%ing growth experience.” I did not believe it. I could not see past my grief.

Sure enough, the life experts were right. Time passed. Family and friends built me back up. Grief gave way to growth. This is a growth lesson I would rather not have learned through grief, but--nonetheless--I have learned.

Grief is powerful and leads to powerful growth. Coming out of this stupor, I have developed a new and more powerful appreciation for what it takes to be a public school teacher. New Steve better appreciates the old Steve. I have developed a deeper respect for what it takes to be a teacher. Teachers are strong.

A little secret I never revealed in all my teacher activism is that, for most of my teaching career, I thought my teaching gig to be relatively easy.

Sure, the day-to-day grind gets old at times, papers can pile, politicians and educrats inappropriately mess with my profession, and the school-related stress can spike during predictable parts of each season, but--for the most part--the daily execution of teaching usually comes easy to me.

During the peak of the grief, however, I questioned my ability to teach. I thought about taking an extended absence. As the school year started, I didn’t know how I would survive. How could I meet the needs of my students when I was so needy myself?

Through this despair, I have come to realize how strong I used to be and how much I give psychologically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually to my students. After the fog lifted, I could see more clearly now how much strength is actually required to help needy students on many levels. Teaching is not an easy gig.

Like Boston Strong in the wake of the 2013 marathon bombing, Teacher Strong is my new mantra for 2015. Teaching comes easy to me when I am healthy and strong. I have been fortunate to have been mostly healthy and strong during my professional career.

Teachers serve students, parents, and our communities in powerful ways. Teaching takes profound strength to serve an increasing number of students with significant socio-psychological needs.

My period of despair has left no doubt.  To teach, you have to be Teacher Strong. What teachers do is important and matters.  What I do matters and makes a difference. In 2015, I will not take being strong and healthy for granted. What is my nature will now be nurtured.

Goodbye 2014. Goodbye Grief. Hello 2015.


1 comment:

  1. A retired Boston Strong teacher weighing in here.

    When I first read about respite care for caregivers, I was quite amazed that such a thing existed. Teachers never get respite care, and we are so attuned to caring for our students that our own needs seldom are taken care of. Add in the responsibility of raising children of our own, coupled with the bureaucratic paper demands of our jobs, the increasing poverty of those whom we serve, and for sure, only the strong survive.

    I'm happy that you're feeling more alive and more able. You are not alone!