Saturday, February 11, 2012

Teacher Reflection: Gratitude, Guilt, and Relief

I mentioned back in the earlier days of this blog that I'm a teacher with multiple schools, districts, and states under my experience belt.  My life as a military spouse has given me the opportunity to travel from my home state of Alaska (first teaching job), with districts in New Mexico and Kansas thankfully hiring me to continue working with kindergartners as our family relocates to and from each duty station.  Uncle Sam will have less say in our travel plans at the end of this school year when my husband retires.  We've bought a home, and will stay in Oz.

My very first class of Super Stars will be graduating from college this year.  Several have started families of their own.  I am incredibly proud of their accomplishments, and grateful to be remembered by the young adults that have evolved from the cherubic little faces I see when I revisit my yearbooks.  Let's face it, kindergarten is a grade full of memories furthest away from a college graduation date, and yet the Stars remember Show and Share.  They remember Fairy Tale Dress Up Day.  They remember how I "did the voices" during storytime.  

It's sweet and heartwarming, but there are other memories that still knock the wind out of me.  One Star, a victim of family abuse, remembers how he stopped being scared of grown-ups when he met me.  Another remembers how when the Troopers would take him from his home because of yet another domestic disturbance, he knew he'd still get to have cereal once the police brought him to my classroom.  Yet another Star figured out years later that the Sock and Shoe Fairy was really me.

Perhaps it's been luck that I haven't had a tough-case-kid for the past few years.  I've certainly had students with special or exceptional needs, but their parents have partnered with me, learning, sharing, debating, and advocating for their children.  Visiting the blogs of many early childhood and elementary colleagues, I've read about their burdens, difficulties, triumphs, successes, and heartbreak.  I remember those days.  I sympathize, but I also feel something akin to what I can only describe as some sort of survivor's guilt: these exemplary teachers are not only exceptional in their pedagogy, but in their humanitarianism... meanwhile I have been insulated from daily trials such as theirs for three years now.  I've lost sleep due to general insomnia or concern over my husband's deployments, but not over students.

Until last night.  It's been years since I've had to push for a parent teacher conference. Years since I've had to gently but firmly advocate for a student and his/her siblings by way of suggesting parenting classes, food choices, or changes in the home routine that would impact hygiene.  Years since I've had to consider calling in the big guns.  Years since I've danced in the them-versus-us arena.

My survivor's guilt is oddly paired with relief.  The script for this student and this family is still stored within me.  It flowed from my mouth yesterday as colleagues created a plan to come to the aide of children who need us for more than reading, writing, math, and social skills.  I lost sleep last night as the scripted machinery whirled back to life inside my brain, helping me generate ideas for how we'll advocate for our students, document our efforts, and track what we hope will be changes for the better.

I've still got it.  

And I still hate having to use it.


  1. Your post hit home for me. I have a student that mom needs intervention. There is abuse in the home and my little kiddo worries about mom. My kiddo said that mom needs someone to care about her. Sad for a five year old to even have to worry about this situation.

  2. Anonymous7:51 PM

    I am in a similar situation this year. Never in all my years have I had a child's needs hit me so hard. Nor have I ever had to advocate and document like I have this year. Hoping for a good outcome for all of those kiddo's


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