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Para on a Soapbox

Working in a middle school is nothing short of….I can’t even make a comparison. It’s insane. It’s absolute, unbridled, life-sucking chaos. I’m blaming working in this circus on my lack of updates. I always want to write about some of the ridiculous scenarios I see play out on a daily basis – teens joking about school shootings, or playing the new game of “scream as loudly as possible in the hallway for the hell of it”, or getting in fights just to get in fights, disregarding anything and everything teachers say whenever they possibly can, social media spewing a tsunami of gasoline over a tiny flame and turning it into an out of control forest fire. And then watching teachers get drained repeatedly and come back for round two, three, four, five hundred again and again.

It’s a super vicious cycle that’s gotten progressively worse as the end of the year has grown closer. I come home and the desire to do much of anything involving creativity has been siphoned from my brain. Right now? I’m writing in a classroom during a quiet reading time that is anything but quiet. But I know that when I get home, I’ll have nothing to give.

Realistically…I shouldn’t be writing about it. Lord knows I’ve gotten in my fair share of unwanted scenarios by having unpopular and unwanted opinions and voicing them without thinking things through. With this, I’ve started, deleted and restarted so many times, trying to figure out how to work things just right because I feel like what I have to say needs to be said.

So, you know those end of the year memes? Like this one?

I can’t handle just how true this is. Add to that the way people make comments like, “Oh, you have the summer off? Must be hard to be a teacher!”

It is. Teacher, para, special ed instructors…all of them…we need those three months just to remember what it’s like to be human again. It’s not a vacation…it’s a necessity. If you spent every single moment of your work day trying to corral a bunch of vocal tornadoes, you’d want a damn break too. And if you invested 110% of yourself into ensuring a child succeeds when there are odds stacked against them….yes, it is.

And if you sit through countless lockdowns with anxiety gnawing away at your insides because you are responsible for the lives of 20 plus kids…yeah, being a teacher is hard. I haven’t worked at any other job where lockdowns are the norm.

Unlike teachers, I’m here for one kid and one kid only. I’m assigned to one kid. Still have to sit in a classroom with a bunch of others that are wildly out of control and disrespectful. It makes me go home, look at my daughters and start sentences like, “If I ever hear you act this way towards a teacher-.”

There’s some good ones. For sure, there are some students here who come ready to work, wanting to learn…and then are robbed of those opportunities by others students who derail the lesson, ask loud, unrelated questions and any handful of things that have me wondering how those first students I mentioned are able to retain anything.

Just because I’m a one-student para doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated when I see the lack of compassion or understanding for what teachers deal with on a daily basis.

I can’t wait for summer. Cannot WAIT to have some time with my two kids and feel like I can breathe for more than two days at a time. I imagine a lot of teachers and para’s feel the same way. I can’t wait to spend every day for three months not listening to a kid being asked to put their snacks in their locker say “I’m just drinking water!!” while chewing on cheetos, no water bottle in sight. Oh, I can sure live three months without that. So can the teacher in the classroom with me, I’m sure.

Bottom line…don’t be that person who gives teachers a hard time for having their summers off. Don’t be that person giving teachers hard times for wanting more compensation. They deserve it. They walk into situations every day where they’re fighting a losing battle, and come back to do it the next day. Most of them are here because they had teachers they looked up to, teachers that changed their lives in some way.

I’m here because I didn’t have the support I needed in school and anxiety wasn’t something diagnosed in children back in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s. I wanted to make sure kids who faced the same struggles I did had the help and support they needed to feel like they were getting somewhere.

I certainly didn’t expect to walk into what I walk into every day. I really, truly, didn’t. I remember respecting teachers in middle school. There were teachers I didn’t like but I certainly didn’t tell them that in class. I didn’t disrespect them or skip their classes while hanging out in the lockerbay next to their room snacking and not really caring.

All teachers, paraprofessionals and school case workers want to and expect to make a difference on some level. They should be respected, understood and supported on more levels than they are being supported today.

I know that’s very soap boxy but I hope it resonates. Appreciate an educator on more than just the week they have assigned to appreciation. Appreciate them every day, understand them every day, find ways to collaborate with them in supporting your child every day.

Because every day, they go to work ready to support, appreciate and understand your children.

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