First of all, this is NOT a commentary on our loving spouses, family and friends. I’m sure all these people genuinely want to hear all about your day. The problem is, trying to explain the complex, deep-seated, soap opera-like drama that occurs every day at a school--to someone who doesn’t work in a school--is like trying to explain physics to first graders.
Every day, my kind, interested, well-meaning husband asks me about my day. And there have been times when I actually started telling him about it. Inevitably, one of two things happen:
#1—Just as I am getting started, like a minute in, his face starts to glaze over and he gets this Boy, I really wish I hadn’t asked look in his eyes.
He starts shifting uncomfortably, just some minor stirs, but it communicates that he is desperately looking for a way out. He starts looking around the room. He looks longingly at the TV. He looks at our children. He looks over at the dirty dishes piled on the counter and suddenly looks like this is something he actually wants to do.
Finally, at some point I will pause, and one of two things happens. He will either be so caught off guard that I’ve stopped that he will just STARE at me-- like my students do when they have absolutely NO idea what I’ve been talking about. OR, he will say something totally sensible for any another place of business like…
#2— “Why don’t you go talk to the principal?” Now, this sounds logical enough. And in many other work places talking to your boss would be a perfectly reasonable solution. But unfortunately, in a school it is NEVER just that simple.
I have worked with some wonderful principals. But principals have alliances, friendships, history and agendas too. Sometimes talking to the principal can leave you feeling empowered, competent and understood. Other times it can leave you feeling like a kid who just got in trouble.
The advice I remember most from one of my principals was “skin your own skunks” meaning, handle your own problems. This advice is usually fine for dealing with kids. But what about when dealing with co-workers, other teachers or assistants? Let’s face it, many of our most stressful problems are not with the kids.
The good news is, on this one, I can offer some advice on what to DO.
DO talk to your teacher friends. DO talk to co-workers past and present who, when listening to your story, require no explanation of the intricate and complex relationships, alliances or history. They will listen, they will understand and they will GET IT.
DO go out and commiserate. Go out and complain, share, cry and laugh. Every day we are literally navigating a battlefield. So often we desperately just need a good laugh.
I have often heard people say, “I don’t know how teachers do it.”
We do it with each other.
Teaching is physically and mentally impossible to do alone. We need each other and we need our fellow co-workers. We desperately need their camaraderie, their friendship and their understanding. We need to laugh and we need to cry.
We need each other.