Melting in December

I had my first melt down at school on Friday.

A fight that had apparently been brewing all day came to a head in my classroom Friday afternoon. I had not even started class yet; it was only about two or three minutes into class. I had just finished giving a paper to a student , who was near the back of the room, and in the ten steps it took me to get to the front of the room, this same student thrusted himself at another one and began punching him. The attacked student then turned around and pushed the student to the back of the room, towards my computer, and against the wall where he then pummeled him to the floor. I yelled for a student to get another Mr. Edinger next door, because, for a moment, I thought I was not going to be able to separate them. Luckily, the second student got off the first one and I promptly escorted them to the office, explaining to the assistant principal what happened.

By the time I got back to my room (only a short distance from the office), I was emotionally drained. I very curtly told the class they needed to be in their seats and reading. By this time, Mr. Edinger had come into my room and asked me if I was all right. His question triggered something in me, I don’t know what, and I could feel the tears welling up. I said no and asked if he could cover for me, then ran to the library conference room and lost it. I absolutely lost it. I had what I think could be my first panic attack. I have absolutely no idea why I lost it the way I did, but I spent the rest of the afternoon (over an hour and half) in the conference room, trying to pull myself together. Luckily, I have a great administration who by this time knew what was going on and had gotten coverage for my last two classes. Also luckily was that I had some good co-workers who came to comfort me. As long as I didn’t try to talk, I was fine, but as soon as I tried to say anything about what had happened, I lost my breath and couldn’t speak.

Even typing this now, I feel like I am going to cry. I do not know why I broke down the way I did. In this middle school, fights have become a way of life, unfortunately. Kids are constantly pushing and punching one another, either jokingly or in a not so friendly demeanor. I later found out that the reason for the fight was because the first kid thought the other one was laughing at him in math class, thus calling the second kid a name, and in my class the second kid to retaliate by pushing the kid’s pencil box off the desk. Now, I guess it must be understood that the first student has Asbergers, so he is constantly afraid that kids are laughing at him, and getting his pencil box pushed down is a BIG deal to him – it’s the nature of his disorder. Even so, the fact that I was hyperventilating over some name-calling and a pushed-over pencil box makes me feel very, very out of control.

I honestly hope I do not have a day like Friday ever again. I feel as though I hit my first-year teacher low. Talking with the assistant principal after school, she assured me that things get easier after this first year. The guidance counselor reassured me yesterday that this whole year is a learning experience. Yet, often I feel like a failure. And I hate feeling like a failure. It is why I hated my clarinet so much – because I was not that good at it. I have never struggled with something as much as I have this first year of teaching. And yet, if this is was I’m supposed to do . . . if this is my true calling . . . then WHY am I struggling so much? Why am I so stressed out all the time? Why do I dread the weeks so much and countdown so much to the weekends? Why is it only December and I can’t wait until June?

After the incident on Friday, I talked to my principal so he could let me know what the boys had told him and the course of action that was taken. During this conversation, he assured me that I was doing a great job in my lesson planning, and how hard the first year of teaching is, and how he hopes that I don’t get discouraged with teaching because of this difficult first year. I shook my head and told him that I wasn’t, but inside, part of me was screaming “TOO LATE! THIS IS TOO HARD! JUST LET ME OUT!” While most times I do not feel this strongly, I can honestly say at this point that I am not necessarily enjoying my job. I’m not even close to saying that I love my job. I would just hope to like it by the end of the year. And I feel like a failure for saying it, and I hate saying it, but it’s true. I have never been so stressed out in my life. And it absolutely sucks.

I’m not even sure how to end this post. I wanted to end it in some poetic, thought-provoking way, but I am so tired and have so much grading to do right now, that I realize I should just let it go as it is. So until next time . . .

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