In the wee hours of this morning, another of my 24-year-old son’s friends killed himself. I say another because the first one was about a year ago. Two close friends in two years.
Here at The Educator’s Room, we constantly talk about self-care. We constantly are saying how important it is to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I’d like to extend that to watching out for each other as well.
The young man above had joined the military and the other friends went their ways as well, trying to keep in touch digitally, but, as life has it, not able to get together physically. No one really knew the demons he struggled with other than bits and pieces of conversations and the ‘stuff’ that had been going on when they were all together in high school.
Having said that, what about our teammates? I don’t know about you, but I spend an awful lot of time with the ladies in special education at my school, and I know the other grade teachers do too.
But are we REALLY spending time with them? Do we know them as people, outside of the teaching realm? Would we be able to spot a potential struggle that could be harmful? With all of the time we consume ourselves with teaching and trying to wrangle over-sized classes full of kids while dishing out curriculum, how can we be better at helping one another?
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In my building alone, which is small in comparison to other buildings in my district, I know we have one family with a child on life support, one teacher who just had surgery, one teacher who lost two family members over the summer and one, although I didn’t even realize it until the card came around to sign, whose dad had just died.
We only have 400 kids in our building, with approximately 50 staff. I cannot even imagine what suffering is going on among our student population. Just in my class alone last year, I knew three of my students had all lost their fathers within the year. Three. Different. Kids.
The amount of stress that our kids are under is admonishable. Throw in the parents and their grown-up struggles and we are looking at one unhealthy selection of people. And this burdens me.
Before I finished my teaching degree, I started out as a counselor. And I did this simply because I grew up in the grips of mental illness in my family and I wanted to figure out what in the world I was dealing with. This was a time when mental illness was hush-hush and an even larger stigma was attached than it is today, so the mental illness wasn’t really diagnosed, it was just band-aided over and treated with a slew of pills. I remember being nine years old and putting the caps on each one of those pill bottles and tucking the person into bed. It didn’t dawn on me that there was a problem until I became an adult. My family didn’t have outside friends, we didn’t go to church, we didn’t socialize and the only group I had was teachers and a handful of friends at school.
My teachers all knew something was up and looking back on it now, I realize the compassion and kindness they showed me. I realize the way they would overlook me falling asleep in class. I realize the availability they made for me if I needed extra help.
I also realize the ‘team’ they formed. Every single one of my teachers discussed my situation, even though they didn’t really know the extent of it, and every single one of them were there to catch me. They knew. They stepped in. They protected me when I didn’t even know I needed protection.
This is what we need to do. Not necessarily for our kids, because we already do that. I’m sure every one of us wouldn’t bat an eye if we were asked to take our kids home with us. We need to remember to be there for our teammates. We need to touch base with them a lot. We need to check in on them not just with the classroom curriculum, but keep up with family stuff and personal kid stuff and, well, all of it. We need to make sure that our teacher friends aren’t sitting on their back porch with a bottle of pills and a glass of wine one evening simply because no knew what they were going through.
We are a TEAM. And from what I know teams stick together, through everything.