Being a teacher means embracing constant change. Yet all too often, teachers are told when, how and why to change. In this monthly column, Mrs. Mimi takes on creating change for herself by rethinking old practices and redefining teaching on her own terms.
Let me begin with a bit of a disclaimer…While you are reading this in the first moments of 2013, please know I am writing this just days after that tragic day at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.
I want to make a joke or two followed by something I hope you find relevant to your daily lives as teachers. I want to say something a little saucy and slightly over the line to make you laugh at the end of a long day. But I just don’t have it in me right now.
I’m sure you understand. Everything feels heavy. Perhaps because this happened in an elementary school of all places, perhaps because I am a teacher and I know what six is, perhaps because this happened too close to home for me, or perhaps because I am a mommy.
Does it matter?
Each month I try to think about a topic from our everyday classroom experiences and look at it in a new light. I do this mostly for selfish reasons as I have a perverse need to constantly have a project, but I hope some of you are able to get something out of it too. Right now, all I can think about is those teachers who were and are heroes. I imagine what that day must have been like, the thoughts that raced through their heads, their instinct to protect and act quickly and selflessly.
Among other things, this event is a cry for us to rethink how we address mental health in our country and in our schools. It is time to provide the support and guidance teachers need to more successfully deal with what appears to be a growing number of children with particular social and emotional needs all while teaching a reading lesson.
But, for the teachers out there who are currently working with children who have mental health issues, I want you to rethink “being a hero.” I am talking about “being a hero” in the sense that I know many of us out there are afraid to ask for help when we are truly struggling with controlling or reaching a student. Many of us think that we were given this class and take pride in being able to handle things on our own. Others are afraid to admit they want help because they work in a school culture where teachers feel like they have to “prove themselves.”
It is not a sign of your failure as a teacher if you are unable to provide the type of environment our students suffering from mental illness deserve. You were not prepared for this. You are a hero even if you ask for help (and maybe especially if you ask for help).
So gather your class around you. Share a book together. Share your favorite memories from the school year thus far. And share the load by asking for help and making it known that teachers need support and guidance when working with children who struggle socially or emotionally.
You are already a hero. Mrs. Mimi is a pseudonymous teacher who taught both first and second grades at a public elementary school in New York City. She's the author of IT'S NOT ALL FLOWERS AND SAUSAGES: MY ADVENTURES IN SECOND GRADE, which sprung from her popular blog of the same name. Mimi also has her doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
© 2013 Mrs. Mimi. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.