We have been learning about trauma and how it affects our children and how it affects us as teachers. At a professional development day, they had us take the ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey) and cobbled together our results. If you don't know about the ACES, it gives you a point for every category of childhood adversity you survived: physical, sexual, emotional abuse; neglect; foster care or other removal from parent care; death, suicide, mental illness, drugs and alcohol, imprisoned family. Big things. The best score is a zero, of course, and the worst is a ten. For those of you who know about my former student who lived with us as a young adult, he would have scored a ten, and that's just based on what he told me at my kitchen table.
The higher your score, the worse off your adult life likely is. Scores in the 2-3 range have minimal effect. Starting at 4, though, people die younger, people get more chronic disease and cancer, people make reckless choices and don't do well. Remember John had a 10. And he was dead at 29.
Our faculty average was a 5.5.
Be the person you needed when you were younger, the sign once hung in my classroom. I think that's what's happening. I think that's why teachers stay and work against all odds. Against low pay and crushing expectations and inadequate supplies and poor leadership and little public support and random shootings and burnout and extra duties as assigned, against politics and many many idiotic people who think they could teach, just like I'm sure they could wait tables, even though good teachers aren't made, they are honed, against all of this, I think that's why they stay. And I think that's why some of them leave.
I'm staying because I'm 44 and what the hell else am I going to do? And sometimes when I look across the classroom, even now where these moments are fewer and harder to come by, sometimes I look and the kid is looking at me, hoping to get my attention, and we lock eyes for just a moment and we see each other.
If you can do anything else, don't teach. But if it is what you can do best, then come save yourself and maybe someone else too.