A Good Teacher Is a ‘Self-Abuser

A nondual teachers that his wife, a kindergarten teacher, had been on leave for two years to have their two children. He specialized in language acquisition and reading development, so he used his wife’s classroom as an observational laboratory for years. While she was on leave, he was having a difficult time finding a replacement.

He always spoke highly of his wife’s skills and patience as a teacher. It was clear he held her in high regard, so it was out of total respect that he joked, “Yeah, I think she’s going to keep having children, just so she doesn’t have to go back to work…I’m convinced that a good teacher is a ‘self-abuser’ teacher!”

I had an immediate, gut-level, visceral reaction…

“That’s me!”

I was always putting 110% into my work. I worked hard to develop interesting lessons and attempted to keep close tabs on the students in my elementary classroom. But, every day ended in frustration:

-“I didn’t get through all of my lessons today. What am I doing wrong?”

-“The kids were pretty talkative today. I’ve created all these ‘cool’ hands-on activities, but I still can’t get them to pay attention.”

-“The principal walked in with eight new students for my math class today. I didn’t have enough desks, books, or supplies for them. The rest of the class went crazy because neither they, nor I, were expecting that our class would grow by 30% in the middle of our lesson…” (True story, by the way. I have no idea where those extra eight kids came from.)

-“Why can’t I have a day without any interruptions?”

-“We had a ‘surprise’ assembly today that destroyed our ‘learning center’ time. The kids were crushed. I feel bad that I didn’t give them any warning.”

-“I don’t know what to do about Trevor. No matter what I do, I just can’t connect with him.”

In reality, many of my frustrations came from things over which I had no control. Yet, I still felt defeated.

One summer, I returned to school to submit my resignation. We were moving and I would need to find a new job. Robert, a veteran janitor, overheard me speaking with the principal just inside the office. A few minutes later, I headed towards my classroom to pack up my things. Robert quickly chased me down. He was wheeling a dolly and flagged me to join him on the elevator.

I had always liked Robert, but I was shocked by how gracious he was towards helping me. As we finally reached my classroom, he wistfully said, “Yeah, I hate to see you go. You are the best we have here.”

I was shocked! Robert was close to retirement; he had spent at least 25 years in the hallways of schools across our district, so he had seen his fair share of teachers and classrooms at work. He was always pleasant but rarely said much, so I didn’t expect such a kind compliment from him. I doubt he would have said it if he didn’t mean it.

But, how could he feel that way? After seven years, I could barely count on two hands the number of times I came home feeling positive and proud about my accomplishments in the classroom.

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