This article was written by Emma Tackett — a fifth grade Language Arts teacher in Texas! Teaching is her passion.
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Teachers wear many hats, in an emotionally draining world. Simply stated, we have our home life with all the emotions that come with it, and our teaching life which comes with even more emotions. When we get to school and put our teacher hat on, we let go of the stresses of family and/or friends, in order to be the best we can for our students. Then, we go home, and put on our spouse, parent, friend, daughter/sister or son/brother hats, in order to be the best we can be for everyone in our personal lives.
But what happens when you can't?
Sometimes, the emotions we're experiencing can't simply be put into a separate compartment in our heads, and we inevitably mix the emotions of work and home.
As teachers, we become very emotionally invested in our students. We love them, we care for them, we teach them lessons, both for school and for life. We get to know them as individuals, their fears and hopes. We get to know their families, or lack there of. We become invested in their well-being. This is something I cherish about being a teacher. But today, it is something that hurts.
"...when you hear one of your students, YOUR students — who you raised and saw struggle and succeed, who you helped grow as a person and as a student, who you were proud to teach — took their own life."
Sure, some days we come home and it was just one of those days. The days that anger you and upset you, the days where you can't let something go. But today, today was a day where being a teacher, being invested, made it difficult to breathe. The moment when you hear one of your students, YOUR students — who you raised and saw struggle and succeed, who you helped grow as a person and as a student, who you were proud to teach — took their own life. It's heart wrenching. The feeling is something I will never adequately be able to describe. In your mind you wonder:
"What could I have done differently? Why couldn’t I see the pain? I tried so hard to make a difference, but could I have done more?"
All of these thoughts follow you. They're with you wherever you go. Your teacher hat and your home hat can no longer be kept in separate boxes in your head. Holding back tears in the classroom, holding back tears at the dinner table...
"This job is hard."
Because of our emotional investment, we will see successes, graduations, careers beginning and careers ending. We make friends and memories, and above all, we make a difference. But maybe not every day. Today was not a proud teacher day; today we felt pain, sorrow, and a yearning to do more. This job is hard. And sometimes, not being able to take off that teacher hat can hurt your soul. If there is one thing I've learned about being a teacher, it's that it isn’t just a part of you, it is you. And maybe, just maybe, it is the best part of you. And even though it hurts today, together, we can help the next one.