My last year of teaching public school was the most challenging year I had ever had. It was a year of redistricting, teachers were moved to different schools unwillingly, and students who were in their last year of elementary school were scattered throughout district lines. Parents were upset, teachers were angry, and the students didn't feel at ease until a few months into the year.
Personally, I wanted to change grades. At the time, I was teaching 4th and I wanted to move to 6th grade. Many of the students I had 2 years prior were going to the school in which I was moving. I was excited to have many of the same kids in my class again.
The year started off with many mixed emotions between everyone. The teachers were trying to make the best of their new situations, and the students had a fair amount of adjusting to do. The kids were separated from many of their friends, their routine was turned over, and the school they loved so much was now a distant memory. As this was their last year in elementary school, many were simply longing for their usual environment.
The mix of students was also new. Kids who had not known each other were expected to make new friends immediately, adjust accordingly and move forward. For some, the transition wasn't too hard. For others, the transition had become extremely difficult.
As a caring educator, my eyes were open all of the time. I knew there was a great chance that bullying would occur due to the circumstances, stress, and emotions that were flying high. Within 3 months of school, the bullying began between some of the girls in my class. A word here, a fight on the playground, and rolling eyes were quickly becoming the norm.
I would not have it. I created a mailbox and put it on my desk and asked the kids to write down any questions/issues they were having, so we could discuss them either in private or together. I required a journal entry every Friday that focused on being grateful. Every Monday I held a class meeting to discuss problems, issues, and solutions. The social worker came in each week to talk with the kids and monitor progress. I called every parent who needed a phone call, reached out to my co-workers, and spoke with the administration in my building ALL YEAR.
The pain I saw in many of the students was taking a toll on me. I was dreaming about it. I felt helpless because nothing seemed to work.
In the middle of the year, I went to speak with the principal about all of the strategies I had taken. I stressed that I needed more support, more tools, and more ideas. I didn't know how to help them at this point. My toolbox was empty.
I asked this principal for help. The principal looked at me and said: "Robyn, you care too much."
In shock, I walked out. In tears, my heart broke for the kids and for myself. I moved on. I will never forget that moment. How could a teacher care too much? I didn't want to understand the statement, so today I make my own.
Everyone must have a voice when it comes to bullying. There is not one person who can change it, monitor it, and stop it on his or her own. As teachers, administrators and parents, we must come together for the sake of our children.
We must all care too much today, tomorrow and as long as we have the power. We cannot afford to care any less.
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