Friday, February 8, 2008

The utter futility of the teacher's job

In the course of my job, teaching almost every student in the school at some point in my year, I can't help but hear some stories. Some of them just make my heart ache. I hear about families with illness, families in poverty, families with abusive parents... No child starts out thinking this is what their life is like, but some begin to think that this is all there is. Sometimes these children can become troublesome in school, and is it any wonder? It is easy to just to look at the microcosm of the child in your classroom, because that's all we have control over, and that's all we can be responsible for. Its easy to complain about the children who make our lives harder when we are sitting in the staffroom. These kids seem to be on the wrong path, and that nothing we will do will get them to turn their lives around and become good students, and good citizens. I think it is a mistake to expect to turn them around single-handedly.

I prefer to think of the child on a bad path as a boulder, rolling down a hill (not too steep, but enough to keep the boulder rolling). That boulder is rolling towards a cliff. If you stand in front of a rolling boulder, you get crushed. Instead, I would approach it from the side, and throw my whole weight at it, in the hopes that I can nudge it a bit from its course. Then, after the boulder has out run me, I must have faith that there will be other people along the way who will throw their weight into it, and if enough people do so, perhaps we can divert the course of the boulder before it goes off the cliff.

Its a good plan, but we all take these kids home with us in our thoughts, and wonder what's going to happen.


spaguyswife said...

I can only imagine the heartbreak a teacher sees in the duration of his/her career. One can only hope that the little push of that boulder is enough to give a child hope and strength to get through a day, week and eventually strive for a better future. I believe you're one of those teachers that remains with a child, long after they have left the school system. That is a wonderful gift in itself. Keep up the great work. I am enjoying your posts.

James Gill said...

Thank you for your words of encouragement. I will take them with me to work on Monday. It is a gift to have such a supportive parent take on a leadership role in our community. Thanks also for taking an interest in my blog. Nice to know someone is reading it.