Thursday, November 10, 2005

Harden My Heart

So it's official. I'm a grizzled veteran.

The little boy I nurtured and challenged and adored for three years (kindergarten, first and second grade), has moved onto grade three, with a new teacher, she of youthful exuberance and immense talent. I have stepped out of the picture despite my deep connection to him, and made way for the new folks to build a strong relationship with him. I put aside the joys, the pain, the frustration with his abusive mother, and an ineffective child protective services bureaucracy. I smile at him from across the hall, and pretend I don't hear his terror filled cries.

I do all this because it is part of the cycle of life in a school. It's good for the kid, good for his new teachers, and ultimately, healthy for me.

Letting go of the child this year has been hard. But I'd let go of his mom a long time ago.

She's part pitbull, part abuse "survivor" herself, part mother who does indeed love her child. She is impulsive, needy, cruel, a dreamer of big dreams. She's creative, usually capable of torturing her young one without leaving marks, and sometimes unable to keep from whacking him senseless.

And everything and anything I did in support of her son had absolutely no lasting, true effect.

Even calling CPS and ultimately testifying against her at the trial.

I cut her loose in my mind and my heart sometime in the spring of last year. No more sleepless nights for me. No more wondering what she was planning. I closed her down, even as I continued to care for her child.

It's a matter of survival. Mine.

But when I tried to describe this process to my colleagues today, as the new, young teacher looked over at me incredulously, I realized it's the nearly 20 years of experience that let me do this. You don't shut yourself down if your heart is still tender and fresh.

So I have to admit it. I'm a little toughened up. I'm a bit cynical.

I'm a grizzled veteran.


Darren Kuropatwa said...

Veteran; yes. Grizzled; no.

In my mind the word grizzled connotes hard heartedness, a little aloof, disengaged from the present, a tinge of bitterness caused by many painful experiences and a cold disconnection from the people around you.

Veteran, to me, connotes experience, some of it painful, but also a knowledgeable person willing share their experiences to help the young learn; hopefully less painfully. Veterans tend to be giving people who share the wealth of their knowledge and experiences with those that follow to try to make the future a little bit brighter than it was in their day.

Veterans are mentors and mentorship matters -- but you already knew that. ;-)

Clarence Fisher said...

This year I've been teaching for 12 years. When I looked around my room this year and realized that two of th ekids in my class were the third child of these families that I had taught, I began to wonder about the grizzled effect as well....

My mother - in - law taught in our little town for 27 years and by the end, had taught many children of children she had taught grade 2 to years before.

It takes a special person to do what you do.

Muriel Lobier said...

I long for the day I'll have the experience and fortitude to toughen up.
As a third year teacher, I can't keep my heart away from my student's issues. And I should.
I think it's more than a matter of our survival. It's also what makes us effective with our students.
Thanks for sharing, it's always good to know that experience will help, and that toughening up is not a bad thing.

Fred said...

A grizzled veteran is a better teacher. You're not cynical, just pragmatic.