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 email@example.com. And tell us where you’re from. (I won’t attribute anything to you without your permission.)
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.