I’m approaching the end of my 6th year in the classroom. When I started this foray into k-12 education, I was 25-years-old, and I looked 18. I’m now 31, and by most indicators – car insurance premiums, rental agreements, loans – I’m really an adult. (Although M. Taylor swears I only look 26.) Now it has become time to decide if I am to continue on this road paved with good intentions or move on.
In one way, hanging around would be good. Two years in one building would be good. Same colleagues; same students. Consistency. Not running away. But that terrifies me. I don’t really want to be that close to the students. I realize that sounds awful, like I’m some sort of heinous, heartless bitch. I’ve had one giant nervous breakdown during my teaching career, and it’s because I care about my students, my performance. I’m still learning productive ways to prevent myself from internalizing all the hurt that bleeds through the walls here on a daily basis. Getting emotionally invested in that many kids, especially tough cases like mine, is sanity suicide for me. I don’t want to be the SPED messiah. I want to very quietly sit in a corner, undisturbed, unnoticed and schedule meetings or read data. I want to only speak to adults for a while.
Am I a commitment-phobic coward? Does my reluctance to invest emotionally signal unhealthy attitudes about relationships? Or is this what burn-out really looks like? Am I afraid or am I exercising discretion? Pessimist or realist?
The Sufi poet Rumi says, “Do not move the way fear makes you move.” For me, fear of the known has always been stronger than fear of the unknown – the unknown is a empty page in a gorgeous book full of beautiful possibility. The known is prosaic, unlikely to surprise. Had I lived in the time of Rumi, I, too, might have been a mystic, a prioress swept up in the ecstasy of the spiritual. I also might have been an adventurer like Marco Polo or a crusader invading the holy land. More likely I would have been a cellarer, the monk who keeps the monastery stocked with supplies. But the thing about all of these people – mystic, adventurer, crusader, cellarer- they’re singular. People outside of normal, isolated from the crowd, seeking to do things that others don’t understand or want to do.
That is who I am, and that is what I want.