INSANE or NUMB? (please report)

A couple of weeks ago someone posted a comment I think you should read. Jessica Knapp wrote about what teaching can do to people. Her words struck an arrow through my heart. I would very much like for you to add your thoughts and stories.

Here’s what she said:

I taught KG for 6 years in an inner city school where 94% of the stu­dent body qual­i­fied for free lunch. In my first year at age 25 I was older than most of my stu­dents’ parents. Many stu­dents arrived in my class­room not know­ing their last name nor how to hold a pen­cil or a book. Like all the teach­ers at the school, I was expected (threat­ened with los­ing my certificate) to bring these stu­dents up to grade level. Twenty-three 5-year-old kids in a class, always at least 5 with no Eng­lish lan­guage skills, 3 or 4 with severe behav­ior issues, a class­room aide assigned to my room for 45 min­utes a day (the only time I was able to use the restroom) who more often than not was pulled to sub another class so the school didn’t have to pay some­one from out­side.….

I would never stop writ­ing if I listed all of the challenges.

Here’s the thing. After a while I noticed some­thing. The teach­ers who had been in that envi­ron­ment for over 7 years or so fell into two dis­tinct camps.

1. Com­pletely numb. There is only so long that you can pour your heart and soul into mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of chil­dren that start with noth­ing, only to be called into meet­ings once a week which item­ize all the ways you are fail­ing. Even­tu­ally you shut down.

2. Com­pletely insane. For the same rea­sons as above. Just depends which kind of per­son­al­ity you’re more prone to develop. I’d see these peo­ple walk­ing down the hall­way and do a 180 because I knew a whole lot of crazy was about to be com­ing out of their mouths…

Have you ever had so much work that you could never hope to fin­ish it? At some point I just shut down and was unable to do any of it. No mat­ter what I did some­one thought it was the wrong thing — so why do any of it? I real­ized I was on the path to being one of the numb ones — so I quit.

Those “bad teach­ers” who are “part of the prob­lem” most likely didn’t start that way. They are worn out and either numb, or nuts. The teach­ers who feel like they can do some­thing else…ANYTHING ELSE.…get out. The ones whose self esteem is low, and/or stu­dent loan debt for their edu­ca­tion degree is high, are the ones STUCK in the class­room, with no hope, no help, and no energy.

This was written by Jessica Knapp about her teaching experiences in Tampa. She is now happily not teaching in Greenwich, CT. It was originally a comment in a discussion following Part II of my review of the awful movie Waiting for Superman.

I would desperately like to know what you think about this. Either comment here or write me directly at mr.teachbad@gmail.com. And tell us where you’re from. (I won’t attribute anything to you without your permission.)

Thanks,

Mr. Teachbad

Announcements:

1) Don’t forget the first installment of Mr. Teachbad’s Official Teachbad Book Club Eventacular Discussion Series coming up in the second week of March. We are reading Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus by Katy Farber.

2) I just watched the Jon Stewart interview with Arne Duncan again. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. Or watch it again. Pass it around and sign up at the Dump Duncan Facebook Headquarters today! (Not affiliated with Teachbad Industries.)

3) Incidentally, today is my birthday. What I would like is for you to write me anything you have to say about the insanity-numbness spectrum. And also I would like a bottle of Scotch.

4) Related to #3, my astrological sign is Pisces, the fish. Here’s what they say about us: We are compassionate, adaptable, accepting, devoted, imaginative, oversensitive, indecisive, self-pitying, lazy, and escapist. Plus we are motivated sexually by feet.

In closing, I’m sorry about what you are going through and I’ll help you in any way you want. You’re fine just the way you are and I’ll be right here by your side forever. I have a lot of ideas about how we can think about this, but if you criticize any of them I’ll fall apart. So I go back and forth, but I can’t decide if I’m going to tell you any of my ideas or not. You’ll probably think they’re stupid just like everybody else does. Screw it. I’m just going to sit on the couch, pour myself a tall one and watch that scene from The Big Lebowski where she’s painting her toes over and over again.

So, we’re done here. Right? Happy Day.

Mr. Teachbad

51 comments

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