The Moment You Realize You're In Over Your Head

...or the moment you realize that no matter how hard you try, you just don't have what a student needs.  I'm not talking about learning. I'm not talking about instruction or curriculum. I'm definitely not talking about teaching my students how to take a test. I'm talking about needs, and life, and food and bathing and caring. I'm talking about what my students really need.  

Sure, there are some who go home to a full house, warm bed, and complete dinner.  Then I have a few in which go home to nothing and no one, and fix themselves food. And nap. And wait for someone to come home.  The ones who hate everything we do in class, yet are the first ones there and the last ones to leave.  And the ones who give you a hug, even after you send them to the office.  

In the past few weeks my heart has been committed to these few students in my class.  I have exhausted myself giving them choices and flexibility and, well, space.  With each of these students I have one single moment that I can recall the thought "They need more than this, and I can't give it to them."  More experiences teachers have told me that I have to let it go, that I just can't touch them.  

Today I had a moment.  The past few weeks with this particular student has been rough.  Throughout the year the student has been making huge strides, and it seemed as though my flexibility and differentiated activities have been working.  Then, suddenly, everything started going downhill.  Wandering around the classroom, general combativeness and disregard.  This student hasn't legitimately participated in any classroom activity in weeks.  The last few days I have been feeling the stress, and feeling my fuse being cut shorter and shorter.  Yesterday, the student huddled in a corner, covering the entire upper body in a huge book basket.  AP had to come down and sit on the floor, and ended up taking the student back to the office for dismissal.  Then today, student again started "rolling" around the room - literally pacing back and forth while I was instructing the class.  We tried having the student call the parents as soon as the behavior started (a decision made by myself and my fab co-teachers as the "next level").  Student refused, leaving co-teacher to do it. (She left messages).  

Then we attempted to send the student to the office.  I walked her about halfway, which involves going outside.  Once outside the student collapsed on the ground, sobbing.  I flagged down some help, and the Principal took over.  

So. This student wound up calling mom from the office, and mom came to pick up.  

Tomorrow I'm hoping for my fuse to be longer, and for me to listen to my own advice. 

"Tomorrow is a new day. Let's start over tomorrow." 


Jenny said...

Who is telling you that you have to let them go, that you can't touch them? I don't buy it.

I believe you have to figure out where you set your own boundaries. There's only so much you can do. But you never know when what you try will be just the right thing. For all of this student's challenges and frustrations, it's quite possible that you have made a huge difference in this life and it just isn't clear yet. You just never know.

organized chaos said...

I feel you. I am doing the "I have a connection" sign. That thought that "they need more than this" and not knowing how to give it to them, or knowing you aren't able to give it to them- I feel like that's been the theme of this year. There is nothing worse than losing your patience while at the same time knowing your losing your patience because you've run out of ideas. I feel like lately I just stand there with my mouth open not knowing what to do next.
Today will be better.
And if not, it's Friday, and happy hours await.