The Bad Kid and the Broken Teacher

This afternoon after all the kids had gone I sat in the classroom and I felt broken. Not just tired or overwhelmed by my work load. I felt that something was broken inside of me. And I thought back to a blog post I read recently titled Broken Things. It depicts a mother and son working through a moment of anger together. It reflects on how children can be taken over by their anger and how they need adults to be the calm that leads them out of the emotional storms that can consume them

I see that almost every day and it is a hard thing to be the calm in the midst of a child’s emotional storm. It is hard to be patient when a child lashes out at you again and again. It is hard to keep reaching out to a child who brings out your own frustration and anger. So I try to think what it would be like to be that child.

Imagine that grownups are asking you to do hard things and you just keep doing them wrong. You don’t understand and they keep demanding that you do hard things all day every day and you get fed up. What can you do? You get frustrated and scared and feel bad about yourself. And because you feel bad about yourself you start doing bad things. You let them see how you are feeling. Then they start to notice. They start to call your name. They start to see you. You are not invisible any more. It feels good to be seen, to be heard. So you do more bad things. And the grownups they get angry, really, really angry. You get scared. You want to be invisible again. Then the kids and grownups around you start treating you like the bad kid. And now you know that all those bad feelings you had about yourself are true. You are a bad kid.

I feel broken for every bad kid I have known. I feel defeated because I want to take that little person and show them all the goodness they have inside them. And I fail. Over and over again I fail. I get frustrated. I get angry. I don’t know what to do. And that child leaves me feeling bad.

So this afternoon when the anger and the frustration had left me I sat in the quiet and I punished myself. I felt bad about myself for not always being the calm in the storm. But I have to stop doing that. I have to forgive myself for not always knowing what to do. Forgive myself for my anger and frustration. I have to find a way to offer myself grace because in that grace I embrace my own goodness. The goodness in me that recognizes the goodness in that kid. The goodness that keeps me reaching out. I have to forgive myself for feeling broken. It’s a first step towards fixing us both, the bad kid and the broken teacher. Because if I give up on me, on my own goodness, I give up on them, the bad kids. And those kids they have to know that someone sees their goodness.

So when I am human, when I am feeling broken I have to make this my mantra. The light in me recognizes the light in you. I see your true self. And I have to say it until we both believe in our goodness.