The canvas pictured above is actually something I created for my classroom this year to utilize when teaching my students about the growth mindset vs. the fixed mindset. I never realized how much I'd turn to this and have to remind myself the importance.
Teaching middle school is difficult when teaching typical children. Teaching middle school can be a whole new ballgame when you add on social and emotional disabilities as well. My students this year have taught me so many things and definitely opened my perspectives on trauma.
I've always known that teachers may experience secondary trauma, when one takes on the emotions of witnessing or hearing about someone else's trauma. Never did I think I would experience first-hand trauma as a teacher. I love my job, so much.. but man, oh man. Middle schoolers have it rough as it is, but many of my kiddos have been exposed to things that many people are never exposed to.
How do I teach someone who doesn't feel safe? How do I make behavioral gains for students that have created years and years of habitual manipulative actions? How do I teach when they don't trust anyone, including me? How do I teach when I am still mentally processing and decompressing from an injury that wasn't intentional?
Earlier this year, I was punched in the head and given a concussion. In another situation, I was body slammed and left with a pretty painful bruise on my leg. Currently, I still have scabs and cuts from 56 minutes of fingernails from a few weeks ago. All of these students are still in my class and a huge part of my life. I care about them a lot and we work daily to find more success and manage ourselves.
But, it is hard. How do you teach reading, writing, math, and social skills to a child who was told he shouldn't be alive from someone who is supposed to show you love and support you?
I love my job. I love my students. I love what I am doing and the progress that we are making, but the reality is that I am having a really hard time removing myself from these situations and stories mentally, especially when I go home. I wish there was more acceptance and that it was easier for others to see that the behaviors that you see are not all these students are. Those are all coping mechanisms that have helped them survive when they can't be rational.
There are so many days that I don't feel good enough to be the teacher of my students; as if I'm not capable of providing the environment they need for success. I make mistakes often. I sometimes don't think I am mentally stable enough to come back. As the first semester starts coming to a close, I realize just how much I've grown since the beginning of the school year.
I've grown in my own assertiveness when managing my staff. I have also learned that things don't have to be perfect and that it is OKAY. Daily, I am reminded that my problems are so miniscule in comparison to what my students face. I have learned that communication is empowering and avoidance is demise.
I can acknowledge that there are factors in my students' lives that I cannot control and will never be able to control, but I go through waves of acceptance. At times, I can be so overwhelmed with realizing I am not able to meet some of their needs. Now, I don't say this for sympathy, but I share all this so that you know if you are teacher feeling similar, you are not alone... and more importantly, if you're doing the best you can with what you have, that's all you can do.