Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. To be charged with supporting the learning, growth, and development of 25+ young minds—AND to face the uncertainties of these times—while supporting different learning styles, cultures, diverse needs, and more…it’s not for the faint of heart. (Edited to note that middle and high school teachers support 25+ one hour at a time, oftentimes with 125+ students total)
Teaching for years in East Oakland, I remember sometimes feeling like I was both in a whirlpool (trying to keep my head above water) AND battling a windstorm up above (trying my damndest to stay grounded and not drift away). There was a small sliver of time when I wasn’t all-consumed by other people’s’ needs on any given day.
On top of that, (as if that wasn’t enough) of course I was expected to have each day’s lesson plan mapped out, learning targets posted, copies made, papers graded, AND have self-sustaining systems for students to access if they needed/missed something or wanted to extend their learning. The homework corner, the “missed a day” corner, the discipline corner, the celebration corner, the technicolor whiteboard with different sections divided by blue tape…
I felt like I was constantly juggling.
Then there’s the actual performance of it all. Sometimes it felt like I was “on stage” all day with a revolving door of a new audience of 25-35 people every hour. I loved the days that I felt confident. I was on fire–super prepared, guiding the learning with grace, sharing my story, showing up authentically with my warm-demander stance. Other days I felt like I wanted to crawl under my desk: exhausted and stressed, I struggled to keep my energy up. As you can imagine, just like a disappointed audience, my middle and high school students expressed their disappointment with their behavior.
We were all doing the best that we could with the tools that we had. And, we were all human beings with outside stressors impacting how we showed up.
When kids misbehaved—on a good day, I was able respond with grace, self-awareness, sternness, and restorative discipline–offering choices with a calm demeanor. I’d take responsibility for the role I played in the misunderstanding and we’d come out stronger because of the debrief. On a bad day, however, I wanted to rip my hair out and scream. I felt the need to demand their respect. I acted in ways that were at odds with my values. I wondered “Didn’t they know I was up late grading their papers, woke up at 5:00 and got to school to make copies for them at 6:30?! How could they?!”
So many missed opportunities.
To be honest, I look back on my teaching days and feel immense pride and sadness simultaneously. The paradox is real.
Pride because I worked so hard and impacted lives in incredibly positive ways. I was a force to be reckoned with and a fierce believer in my students’ potential. I created space for kids to both relax and be themselves, to be pushed and stretched.
AND, sadness, because I was also full of blindspots, biases, and my own naiveté. There were myriad moments of missed opportunities. Countless instances I could have handled better or more restoratively. I see snap-judgments as life-trajectory-changing moments…and I often wonder what would be different if I were teaching knowing what I know now.
It was what it was. I can’t go back, but I can change the future. I can commit to working to change conversations and make sure others don’t make the same mistakes I did.
What I know for sure: the physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental toll on my well being was real.
Now there are new studies coming out affirming my experience. In fact, just this year the NEA actually did a recent report on teacher stress. Another article shined a light on the ‘Epidemic of stress’ blamed for 3,750 teachers on long-term sick leave. “One in 83 teachers (3,750) are on long-term leave for stress and mental health issues”
This is not okay. Desperate times call for different solutions.
This is why we’re developing the SPARK App For Educators: to offer an innovative tool and spark a different conversation about what it really means to holistically support our teachers to reach and teach all students, and why we must tend to the adult learning needs if we want our students to thrive.
We’re raising capital for the prototype via a crowdfunding campaign because this is a community effort. We will involve educators at every level of the process, and we want to raise awareness of this conversation so we can build community momentum.
Can we count on your support? We only have one day left in the campaign, so please spread the word!
Thank you in advance.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
What does this spark for you? Feel free to send a message here or comment below.
Rachel Rosen is on a mission to spark a global conversation about inclusion, racial equity, and courageous leadership. The Founder of S.P.A.R.K., an inclusive community card-game, and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, she helps leaders uncover their blindspots and take their diverse team to the next level with intentionality and integrity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice.