I have so many feelings about this. First, even though I don’t teach at a formal institution, and therefore have a much, *much* easier job than those who do, I feel this *so* much. I don’t feel the strong sense of isolation and disillusionment described here, because I get to teach in a tiny, super-supportive environment, working only with students who really want to be there and who value what I do. What I feel is that enormous sense of responsibility for children’s lives and the constant awareness that my mistakes have impact. When I make a mistake–usually letting my emotions show when I feel hurt or upset by something that happens in class, or feeling that I’ve pushed a student too hard in some area or another–I spend days wracked with guilt and worry over the damage I might have done. Yes, my mistakes help me become a better teacher over time, but that doesn’t quell my worry in the moment.
Leaving myself and the type of teaching I do entirely out of this, however, what I mostly feel is sadness and anger over the level of distrust and disrespect we show our nation’s schoolteachers, such that they are left to give each other coping tips like “It’s okay to cry in your car” while we slash their paychecks, destroy their curriculums, bury them in paperwork, and leave them with essentially no recourse.
I feel lucky that I get to teach in a personally fulfilling, supportive environment where my worries, fears, and frequent physical/emotional exhaustion are balanced by exhilaration, pride, and unmatched joy. Yes, I’ve cried in my car (and in my studio, and in the middle of the night as I lie awake, obsessing over my mistakes), but I’m constantly rewarded by my students, their parents, and my awesome teaching partners. Why do we, as a society, seem intent on ensuring that our schoolteachers feel as little of that reward as possible?