Have you ever had a really bad year where you question yourself, your career choices....your ability to teach, your reasons for wanting to teach...? Did you ever have such a horrible year that even though it is against everything you believe in, you've considered making a clean break with the new year (meaning after winter break)? Well I did. It was a pivotal moment in my career. In my fourth year of teaching I was teaching in a charter school. I had THE most challenging class....EVER. Let me tell you how loaded my class was. When I walked down the hall I could hear whispers like, "she got them ALL????" or, "WOW, did they save any for the other teachers?" Yes, my class had every student who displayed any behavior issue in the previous year. Yup. In November when I had tried everything, I was so close to my breaking point. I spoke with the administration and asked why I had every challenging behavior in my class. Do you know what I was told? I was told, "because you can handle it, you're such a strong teacher". Was that a compliment? I.....think......NOT! Not to add that dealing with behaviors schoolwide was an issue. So really, after I exhausted all of my consequences within the classroom, there was no discipline. I was made to feel like it was my fault, that I should be able to deal with it, at this time the parents of the students in my class weren't supportive blah blah blah blah. By December I had had ENOUGH. I found a job and even had a start date for the week after winter break. I secretly started packing my room up and even felt lighter because, by this point, I was in countdown mode. Now, although my class was VERY challenging (and that is an understatement), there were a few students who made coming to work just a little easier because I knew that no matter how out of control some students would get, they kept their cool/focus. Well... It was a Monday afternoon. I wanted to let my students know first-hand that I was leaving and that even though I was moving on they would all have a special place in my heart blah blah blah. So I call them all to the rug and they were surprisingly very well behaved. In hindsight maybe the empty walls, disappearing books and centers set a quiet alarm off in their heads. I sat them in a circle and started with, "I have something very important I want to tell you all....." and before I could go any further, a certain student, who I KNEW looked forward to coming to school everyday and was literally THE PERFECT STUDENT, screamed out, "YOU'RE NOT GOING TO QUIT ARE YOU????" and like a cartoon character tears came shooting out the side of her eyes and she threw her face in her lap and started CRYING! And, not a whimper....I mean BOOHOO crying. I almost started to cry myself but instead I jumped up and said, "NO.....of course not!" And gave this student a great big HUG! And at that point I realized that despite what I go through, no matter how hard it is, I am stronger than the students in my class. I can take what ever challenges and obstacles that I face because I am grown, but if I were to leave mid-year I would be setting these students up for failure. I pushed through the year. YES I cried atleast once a week on my way home because at times I just hated it so much. But I told myself, I will have the entire summer to look for another job. And it wasn't going to be teaching. SO I THOUGHT! I made it to June. But what I was doing between January and June was trying out different strategies and techniques for dealing with challenging behaviors. By the end of the year I had a very big "box (not bag) of tricks" and believe it or not, I had eventually turned my class around and they made progress. Once I got to June I remember thinking to myself, "now that wasn't too bad!" LOL! I am so glad I stuck it out....BUT, I needed a break and I took one (no summer school no tutoring). By August I was at a new school and inspired with a new sense of determination. I never wanted to have a year like that again. And, I haven't. Since then, it has been my goal to make each year better than the last. I am glad for that one student because her desire to learn reminded me of my desire to teach when I so close to walking away from it forever.
I saw her, THE STUDENT THAT SAVED MY CAREER, the other day! It warmed my heart to see her. She was grown and she had just graduated from high school. She told me how her and her family were doing and I told her that story! That was definitely one of the highlights of my year : )