Crying in the Classroom

I never thought I’d be the one to lose my composure in front of my students.┬áIn twelve years, I’ve let my students see me cry three times. The first time was when one of my former students was killed while serving our country. He was only 21. His sacrifice left a hole in me that wouldn’t go away. A real tragedy will cause a deep pain that lingers.

But there are other deep pains. Sometimes my pain is not caused by real tragedy, but my body can’t tell the difference. My mind has it all figured out. My mind says, “Get over it, everyone has a tough job.” The rest of me is not that logical. There is real pain in teaching. It comes in the form of headaches and heartaches. I’ve cried in the classroom twice in three months because there is real pain in feeling that no matter what I give to those kids, it won’t be enough. There will be kids who do poorly on their ACT tests. There will be kids who would rather text in class than read books. There will be kids who just don’t believe in themselves. That’s where the heartache comes in, and the headache is not far behind. I could probably do 50 different jobs that are less stressful than teaching…


I go back. I go back because I love them. I believe in them. When I am completely honest with them, they show me that they are decent humans. When I lost it in class the first time, every single kid in the room showed me honest concern. When I lost it today, two kids (who didn’t strike me as likely to comment on my embarrassing struggle) made sure to find me later in the library and tell me they hoped that I was feeling better and that they were sorry I was having a bad day. They actually meant it, and that meant everything.

Along side the burdens I face (too many standardized tests, students who live in poverty, depressed students, cell phones, so much grading I can’t even read to my own children at night, etc.) there are kids who pop up now and again and remind me that my work influences them. In the coming weeks, I will pretend that I am going to look for other work. One of those higher paying, less stressful magic jobs that make all my dreams come true, and then I will sign my contract and go back for my 13th year because there is no other job on earth that compares.