There are days and weeks that as educators we just wash from our minds and as soon as they are over we forget and move on. The first week of school, the last week of school and the week before winter break. This past week felt like a month of Fridays. I have no other way to explain it. Now that I am on break and looking back it doesn’t seem so bad, but honestly I have forgotten much of what transpired.
It is not so much what happens, it’s just a different level of energy. Good energy, excited energy, nervous energy, bad energy. Before I had started teaching I loved Christmas and couldn’t imagine a better time of the year. That feeling faded and continues to fade the longer I am in education. As a teacher, I saw it in my scholars, some were happy, some sad, some anxious and just plain mad. But ultimately I could impact those feelings within my classroom. I would make sure different cultures were recognized and all scholars felt safe making sure they had gifts for their parents and families.
But as an administrator, I see a spectrum of emotions from all sides: Parents, scholars and staff. My most memorable experience happened several year ago – a scholar shared some pretty serious stuff that had happened when she was at a relatives’ house for the holidays. She had not told anyone else and since the holiday break was fast approaching, a flood of emotions fell over her and she desperately shared these feelings with her friends, who shared with her teacher, who shared with me. We responded with her best interest in mind and brought her parents in to discuss the concerns. Ultimately everything worked out and the family took care of the situation. Here I am years later thinking about this scholar and others who may face the same challenges. Wondering, “Are they safe?”
Another more recent event, was a scholar who came to talk with me. She wanted me to know why she had been tardy so frequently and missing school. Well from her mouth to my ears, “We, my mom and I have been evicted from our house and we are not sure where we will be living or sleeping. I am not sure I will be here on Monday, but if I am I will try hard to be on time. I just wanted you to know, it’s hard and I am scared.” How do you put that into perspective? While I’m at my house during the holiday break, many of the scholars I see on a daily basis may not even know where they are sleeping, or have their lives turned upside down, not knowing what each day will bring. I wonder, “Will they have food? Will they be safe?”
I see parents coming in with concerns about teachers and staff members, about other scholars. They are coming in in a flight or fight mode and looking for ways to have control or fix a situation. They are not always thinking clearly or rationally. It is up to us to listen and bring some resolution to their concerns. In the same breath, we have parents, families, and scholars facing issues at home, who simply need someone they trust to listen to them. They need have their voice heard. I wonder, “Do they have the support they need to be effective as a parent? Are they able to handle the daily stress of having a family? Do they ever have tome to just get away?”
Now, throw staff members into this mix and the anxiety they feel with the pressure of the closing semester, finishing grading and report cards, reflecting on their mid-year assessments, wondering how to reach all of their scholars, not to mention their families and making ends meet on an educator’s salary. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that teachers have lives outside of school, they too have families and very real problems. But we ask them to leave their emotional bag at the door so they can give 100% to our families and scholars. Well what happens when they break? When they need a minute to stop and breath? I wonder, “Are they taking or making time to relax and rejuvenate? Are they able to stop thinking and be fully present with their family?”
Through the high energy and outrageous anxiety and stress of the holidays, how do you manage to keep it all together?