I’m sitting here in the Miami-Dade Campus Library maybe an hour away from Homestead. Why am I here? Well the past few days I’ve been driving up here to take one of my students to her Piano Slam rehearsal. Her poem was chosen out of 500 other poems all across Miami-Dade. She will be performing in front of 2000 people at the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts in downtown Miami tomorrow night at exactly this time. To say the least, I am so proud of her.
But that pride is dampened by the fact that I won’t be back until 11pm tonight, or tomorrow night. It’s been a tough few weeks. With no breaks in April. Plus poetry club, competitions, field trips, and saturday school. I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m on the verge of breakdown. If I were a cartoon right now, I’d imagine me with my veins and eyes popping out and my head about to explode. Every little thing gets to me. And I’m harsh, impatient, irritable, and snappy. “ooh Miss, you snappy today” “Miss, did you get enough sleep?” “Miss, are you okay? You seem tired.” UM YES, tired is an understatement. And yea, I’m snappy because I have to deal with your lack of consideration and respect. And NO, I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. I don’t stop.
So stop bothering me and just do your work. Why is it that I care more about you passing the test than you do? Why should I care more about your education than you do? Why do I want this so badly for you? So why don’t you do your homework? Why don’t you see that you have 6 block days until your end-of-course exam and you still don’t know the difference between 2-pi-r and pi-r-squared?? You want to know a teachers greatest heartbreak? When she puts her heart and soul into teaching and making sure students understand and then it goes in one ear and out the other. It’s like she gave you her heart and you threw it away.
I think I said those exact words to one of my classes this week. I don’t know, it was a blur. And I’m pretty sure I shed some tears when a student didn’t know the difference between area and circumference of a circle. I think I cracked and am still cracking.
I thought it was supposed to get easier as the school year ends, but I feel like it’s getting harder. I think that I’m just overworked. Poetry club everyday. Organizing all the field trips. Taking students to practice. I don’t need to be doing these things and though I know there needs to be a line drawn, I don’t really want to draw it. And it doesn’t help that I’m surrounded by students every second, during my lunch, during my planning, after school. Recently I’ve started to lock my door just so I can have some peace. Literally every 5 minutes there is a knock on a door. I know they just want to visit and say hi and they are well-intentioned. But it’s getting to the point where I’m just so annoyed with them.
As the school year ends, my relationship with my students has become so much more personal and meaningful. I’ve become an important figure in their lives. Yet, because of that I’m taking things personally and I can’t. That’s why I’ve been so tired. This emotional exhaustion. It’s coming to the point where I’m taking on my students’ burdens. They tell me about their lives and I just can’t detach. Especially with poetry club. We’ve become like a family. They call me “Mama Wu”. I can’t stop caring for them. Yet when I care for them, I start to neglect myself.
Other teachers see how stressed I am. They tell me to just relax. And at this point, my students know what they know and it’s really too late for them. I believe he said, “f- them. Just do what you gotta do. And honestly, your job is done.”
But I don’t want to believe that. As much as I respect that other teacher, I believe his type of thinking is one that cripples the education system. At the same time, perhaps that’s the very type of thinking that people adopt as a survival or coping mechanism. Make things seem less urgent and you’ll seem like less of a failure if you don’t meet those standards. But that’s not how I work. I can’t just slow down and lose momentum.
I compare it to when I go on a jog and I’m on my last lap when all of a sudden I’m hit with a wave of “OMG, I can’t do this, I just want to slow down. I just want to walk” but then again you think “no, can’t do that, Angela, you have to run this. now is not the time to slow down. You are so close. You’re almost there. matter what you do, keep running. you can do this.” And normally I do, but I finish gasping and trying to inhale the whole world.
So this is my last lap. And though I can see the finish line from a distance, I can’t slow down. If anything, I need to run even faster. Come on, you can do this. Just keep running. No matter what you do, don’t stop.