We are a jack of all trades: we are experts in all academic subjects as well as pedagogy and behavior; we problem-solve like a Jedi master; we multi-task like our lives depend on it because that’s what it feels like. We do all this while literally teaching a classroom full of students that no one else wants to teach because they require too much attention or their academic deficits are too great or too varying using curriculum we have spent hours creating ourselves and materials we’ve purchased with our own money because we certainly weren’t provided these things.
With it being the end of the semester, my classroom was full of middle school students working on a variety of class assignments for a range of subject areas in the mad rush to complete enough work to pass their classes. They come because they know we care; they know we will set down our sandwiches, hold our pee, and put aside the pile of grading to answer their questions, listen to their stories, and encourage them one more time.
Meanwhile, next door, my colleague fights through the mountain of paperwork and political red tape to move a student to a more appropriate placement, but we are being told we have moved too many students recently, that it’s too soon to make another change, that we haven’t exhausted all of our efforts. But at what cost? Our time and weaning energy? The particular student's consistent failing grades and increasing deficits? The other students in the classroom?
At the end of the day, we swear like sailors and insist we cannot do this anymore, but we continue to show up the next day. We do it because we can’t not do it; if we don’t, who will?