Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tears and fears at work

(warning this is a long one, but there is some good news at the end.)

I have mentioned in the past that my kids tend to cry. Korean boys seem especially vulnerable to this tendency.
But today it was my turn. Yes, for the first time in my 11 months working at my school, I burst into tears today. It was a combination of many things. First, it is just one of those "a little more sensitive than normal" days. Also, it's the fourth and final week of intensives. This means I work a solid 9 hours a day tuesday to thursday, and mondays and fridays are a nice long 11.5 hour day. It's just a little too much. Also, last night I had a nightmare involving some of my students. In my dream, they were out of control and my boss was getting mad at me for not being able to control them.
So all that led into today. I was toward the end of my 9 hour Wednesday and it was time to teach the class that had been starring in my dream last night. I was a little tense about it since really this class generally IS out of control. So when the most troublesome kid decided to be really rude to another girl while she was giving a presentation I came up behind him and slapped in on the arm. It wasn't hard. But I've never hit a child before. In fact, I am VERY much against corporal punishment in schools. I won't comment on spanking since that is in the relm of the home and I am not a parent. But I am a teacher and I am VERY against hitting children. So I was shocked and disgusted with myself for slapping the kid. (Again, it wasn't very hard and it really was more to get his attention than to hurt him, but it still was harder than I am ok with.) The kid of course lives in a culture where it is normal for teachers to really hit children, and he is a very naughty kid, so he wasn't surprised or moved at all when I hit him. But I was. I left class for the five minute break and wandered into the teacher's room to get more copies and collect myself. I was still in shock over what I had done.
That's when the counselor asked to talk to me privately. She said she had been talking to the parents of the class that I was to teach next and they were concerned. No, they didn't hear that I hit a kid. That they would be fine with since that is normal here. No, they had heard from their kids some concerning stories from my classroom. Evidently, at some point in time, a girl's paper had fallen on the floor, presumably under the table in between the girl and me. I had moved it toward her with my foot for her to pick it up. That hurt the girl's feelings. Also, another girl got hurt when I wouldn't let her borrow my pencils or markers. Now the story there. The girl tells me she has been sick with a fever and throwing up. I ask her if it was in the past or if she was still sick. She tells me she thinks she still has a fever. I tell her that she needs to go home. She doesn't want to and the counselor tells me that she will stay in the class, that she isn't sick anymore. In my American mind, if you have a fever, you are contagious. So I, not being able to kick her out of my class, at least want her to stay away from my pencils so I don't get sick. Well, I hurt her feelings.
So the mom's, who are all really tight with each other and talk a lot, expressed their concern with my teaching. As the counselor is telling me this, I break down in tears. The counselor was shocked that I was so serious about the criticism, she really didnt think it was a big deal. But in that moment (and even now as I type) the news was too much to take. I really enjoy the class with the girls whose mother complained. I thought we had fun. But knowing that they are going to take everything I do under criticism makes me bitter. There are some teachers who don't care about how much the students enjoy learning. But I do. I really try to make my class as fun and creative and educational as possible. Which means I put tons more energy into my classes. So here I am wiping myself out each day, and the parents are complaining. It took me a few minutes to get my eyes unpuffy so I could go to class. I handed out the test the kids were supposed to take and stood over by the window, trying to put on enough make up to cover the red eyes. But I kept feeling the tears poking their ugly heads back up. So I made my way over to my purse and pulled out my bible. I knew exactly where to read. Ps 16.

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasent places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.
I have set the Lord before me, because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." (v.5,6,8)

So I read those verses over and over. I was shaken. But I claimed the truth that my identity and value are hidden in Christ. That I can love these kids and serve these kids as a teacher through His power, and not through my own. I prayed and begged God to give me grace and mercy as I faced this time. And He was gracious.


Anonymous said...

Good website:
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education

beckalippy said...

thanks for the website recommendation. btw, who are you?

Danielle said...

Wow, what ridiculous criticisms from those moms! I can't believe the counselor thought she even needed to mention it to you. I'm sure all that hard work and enthusiasm means alot to the girls in that class (even though a few have had "hurt feelings", you didn't do anything wrong; it's a sensitive age and some people are just sensitive--like me, for one). As for the slap, doesn't sound like too much harm was done. I'm generally against corporal punishment, but it seems like a good slap may come in handy with that kid.