They Don’t Tell You…



Here are some things no one told me in my methods courses, also known as teacher-school.

They don’t tell you about the day when you find out that what you thought was a smoothly running classroom is really a hive of worker bees with a few but powerful and restless, cussing, scheming nine-year olds.

Or that there will be a day when your breath is taken away by the meanness that a child harbors inside. You will wonder where she gets it. What has happened to her to create such a need to reach back out and sting? How can you possibly begin to sooth some of that hurt and at the same time protect others from her jabs?

They don’t tell you that there will be a day when you realize that your best efforts are not enough. Period. That what you thought was really working was not. That all your class discussions and book talks about kindness, and being true to yourself, and what is appropriate… all – not sticking. All overpowered by social media and a culture where children are completely steeped in sexual images and messages that they can’t help but react to.

They don’t tell you that you will give, and give, and give, and it will not ever be enough. That you will leave at the end of a long day so bone-tired and weary that you are not sure you can make it to your car. And you will go home, and sit down, and your people will want to talk and play and move on with the early evening and all you will want to do is cry.

And they don’t tell you about the day you say good bye to a student who you have watched grow into the lover of books you had hoped for. Who has emerged as a confident and joyful learner, in spite of the fact that life has handed him a load of despair and unfairness that no living being deserves. And who leaves within ten minutes. Social services at their best, don’t you know. No time to say goodbye. A quick grab off my shelf of the read-aloud he loved, tucked into his hands, “Always remember how strong you are, and how even when you don’t think you can, you can.”

They don’t tell you your heart will break in a hundred different ways.
Good thing. Who would teach?

I know there is a flip side to every heartache above. There is light in every dark corner and dead end. That every human endeavor is a series of moves through tunnels and pinnacles, twists and turns and questions that have no answers. If you never walked through the valley, how would you recognize the mountaintop? The joy would be less intense, less sweet.

I know that this pain and this hurt is what some teachers avoid by never really engaging in the first place. I know this. Luckily, they didn’t tell me how to do that either.

Thank you Ruth, for this place to share our celebrations and our heartaches too. You can read many more here.



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14 responses to “They Don’t Tell You…

  1. I don’t think the disappointments and the pain make the good times sweeter. I think they make me value the goodness more. The things to hold onto in life is to remember that you never know what difference you are making in someone’s life and you may never know. So, just as you are doing, make that difference in their lives count for something good.

  2. Feeling the pain and the hurt means you care. That is what is most important.

  3. There are many, many tough days when our hearts break, but thankfully, there are also many moments of pure joy. I don’t have any wise words to offer here, but am thankful that you are able to share your story and are opening your heart to students in spite of the potential pain. I hear you and have been there too.

  4. Even as long ago as when I was in school to become a teacher, no, they didn’t tell us any of that, but I did learn, and still persisted and learned to be better for those biggest needs. No matter when surprised, I still held on to the fact that I could make a difference, and it sounds like you are doing that too, in spite of, no matter what. Give yourself a big pat on the back, and be proud that you are showing up.

  5. You are so right – they don’t tell you all of that. And yes, some days your heart breaks. But one of the celebratory things I heard in your piece was the growth of a reader. I know he was taken away too soon, but I loved that you sent him with a book.
    You do make a difference.

  6. I love this the wisdom of this:
    There is light in every dark corner and dead end. That every human endeavor is a series of moves through tunnels and pinnacles, twists and turns and questions that have no answers. If you never walked through the valley, how would you recognize the mountaintop?

  7. A heart-wrenching piece of writing. You captured all the heartache and pain. I love that you sent your student away with a favorite read aloud and words of support and encouragement. I think he will never forget you. Thank goodness for teachers like you who engage, and hurt, and come back day after day, year after year. I salute you!

  8. This is a wonderful reflection that digs deep into your feelings. It is true that we were not taught to deal with all of the issues and heartbreaks you are experiencing but the challenges help build the teachable moments that are needed to climb that mountain.

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