In the Trenches


There really is nothing that could prepare me for this. The sense of despair, of anger, of being so overwhelmed that the only thing I can do is focus on one piece at a time, knowing that it will not be enough. These children need help. They need help so bad that it is nearly impossible to do anything but scramble desperately in their wake, trying to band aid wounds that were inflicted long before they were born. The way they test me, tearing me apart, deliberately assessing just how committed I am to them. And it’s never enough. Because I’m not ready. And there is no way that I could be ready.

We all know that the first year is hard. But you don’t really understand what that means until you are down in it, in those moments of pure frustration, where you get so angry that you begin yelling in a way that you never thought you were capable of. And that’s when they’ve won, when they’ve wrested the control into their hands and empowered themselves in the only way they’ve learned to.

Oh yes. I have yelled, many times now. I have sent a child outside of my classroom already. And the sense of defeat I feel is untenable.

But every day is a new day. It really is. There are moments where I am soaring off of the eagerness with which they do things that they know they are capable of. They get so easily frustrated. Some of them can barely decode a word. Some of them can barely multiply. And I am trying to understand how to teach them at a level so concrete that I can barely even grasp yet myself.  Because numbers or words on a board can be too abstract. And they are perfectly aware of just how disadvantaged they are, and they feel ashamed.

Most of the time, I’m fighting just to make myself heard.

But I will not back down. Because this isn’t about me. This is about them.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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