Teacher Steve Singer over at Gadfly On The Wall:
As any experienced public school teacher knows, you have to satisfy a person’s basic needs before you have any chance at teaching them something new. Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is always at the back of mind.
Students must have their physical needs met first – be fed, have a full night’s rest, etc. Then they have to feel safe, loved, and esteemed before they can reach their potentials.
But meeting these needs is a daily challenge. Our students come to us with a wealth of traumas and we’re given a poverty of resources to deal with them.
How many times have I given a child breakfast or bought a lunch? How many kids were given second-hand clothes or books? How many hours have I spent before or after school just listening to a tearful child pour out his heart?
Let me be clear. I don’t mind.
Not one bit.
It’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. I WANT to be there for these kids. I want to be someone they can come to when they need help. It’s important to me.
But what I do mind is doing this alone. And then being blamed for not healing all the years of accumulated hurt.
Because that’s exactly what’s expected of teachers these days. Fix this insurmountable problem with few tools and if you can’t, it’s your fault.
I didn’t shoot up the mall. I didn’t pass the laws that make it so easy for kids to get a hold of a gun. I didn’t pass the laws that allow such rampant income inequality and the perpetuation of crippling poverty that more than half of our nation’s public school children live with every day. And I sure didn’t slash public school budgets while wealthy corporations got a tax holiday.
But when society’s evils are visited on our innocent children, I’m expected to handle it alone. And if I can’t solve it all by myself, I should be fired.
That is where I take umbrage.
The issue is violence but not all of it comes at the end of a gun.
Keeping public schools defunded and dysfunctional is also a form of violence. Promoting privatization and competition when kids really just need resources is also cruelty. Pretending that standardized curriculum and tests are a Civil Right is also savagery.
It’s called class warfare. Its most prominent victims are children. Its most active soldiers are teachers. And we’re on the front lines every day.
When the bell rang to end class, Paulette stopped by my desk.
I looked up at her ready to give whatever support I could. It was my lunch break, but I was willing to skip it and just talk. I’d get the guidance counselor. I’d call home. Whatever she needed.
But none of it was necessary.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah.” She gave me a big smile and a deep breath.
I returned it.
Today would be alright. Tomorrow? We’ll meet that together.
But we sure could use some help.