I have been away from this for a while, for a number of reasons. One of the biggest was a very hectic work schedule – report card season and such – but a major contributor was taking time to work on my own health issues.
Long story short, I’ve been dealing with a number of health issues for almost two years now, and I thought I was doing well. It was affecting me, physically, but I kept going. Rarely did it interfere with my work, and so I kept a lot of what was going on and how I was feeling too myself. I thought that that was the best thing I could do, sort of protecting my students from the thought of me not being well. But, this was a mistake. Because, it turns out, I wasn’t hiding it.
What I wasn’t aware of was how much everything affected my mental and emotional health. In the last few months I noticed I was a little bit more irritable than normal, and maybe not as patient as in the past, but, again, I didn’t think it was having an impact. I thought I was covering well. I wasn’t.
Recently, a student sent me an email, asking what she had done wrong, and why I was so frustrated with her all the time. That made me stop and think. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She had asked questions, and needed a little extra support getting a concept, that was all. Why had I been so frustrated with her. At first I wanted to get mad and yell “Don’t you realize what I’ve been dealing with? Of course I’m frustrated!” But, I paused, and in that moment realized that no, she didn’t know, because I had never given her the opportunity to know.
As a teacher, I have always thought I was fairly open about how I am doing on any given day. I mean, if I know I’m in a bad mood, my students deserve fair warning, right? At the same time, I know that there is a professional distance. You don’t mix you personal life with your school life. But, do we take that separation too far?
As hard as it is for teachers to admit, we’re only human. And, what affects us in one part of our lives is bound to carry over to other aspects. Think about it – when you have a particularly amazing day at work, doesn’t that transfer over into all parts of your life? When you have a bad day at work, doesn’t that affect your night as well? Why shouldn’t the opposite also hold true?
So, if what is happening in your life is affecting who you are at work, shouldn’t your students know a bit of what is going on? Keep in mind I’m not advocating telling your students every detail of your life. No, they are kids, and can’t solve your problems. But, share a little bit. If you are having a tough time, admit it.
Students respond to how you are. Even if you think you are protecting them, they know something is wrong. And, if you don’t give them a sense of what it is, they are going to assume it is them. That puts them in an awkward situation, and can damage a positive, trusting relationship.
I’m thankful for the note my student sent – it helped me see what was really happening, and focus in on getting back to the person my students need me to be. Things are much better now, but there will still be some bad days, and that’s okay. I’m just going to be more honest with myself, and stop trying to “protect” my kids – they’re too perceptive for that!
Coming Soon: Taking on A-Typical Learners Part 2: He’s Not Creepy, Just Socially Awkward (for real this time!)