|Art by Emily Winfield Martin|
How was my weekend? I watched too much news and felt too many feelings. SAME, responds Everyone, but there’s no time to commiserate and that in itself is a blessing. I roll right into my easy morning class and then the sweet luxury of striding through the misty rain to one of the portable classrooms to check on my students with their newly hired teacher, then back up to my classroom because some of her students still need new composition notebooks, back through the mist to the portables and then “I’m sorry Ms. Floor Pie, I need one too, I forgot” and back again, rain and stairs and stairs and rain and thank God for the healing task of going and getting. Moving. Helping.
Then it’s a meltdown upstairs, an easy one, a plain old chocolate-and-vanilla case of some hapless student teacher earnestly breaking the kid’s brain by casually remarking “The answer in the book must be wrong, then.” I miss the entirety of my prep period and go straight into my next class and the next one and the next one. Cold oatmeal from breakfast for lunch, forgot to photocopy the vocab baseline assessment so I’ve got to improvise something else, unexpected new student with rumblings of soon-to-be-discovered triggers, the yellow Theraputty got misplaced somewhere in the classroom, (but where?), holy moly the sixth graders actually remember a LOT of what they learned in elementary school, and the momentum of this day is a blessing, is all.
I’m not even thinking about the news.
Except I’m kind of constantly thinking about it, too.
The students have all gone home and I’m face down across several desks. PTSD, I shrug, because I’m blessed enough to have the kind of co-workers who get that.
I don’t work with kids who hit and bite anymore. Haven’t in years. When I couldn’t sleep last night, though, when anxiety was water-sliding the course of my nervous system and crashing into sadness, the thought popped into my head involuntarily. I hope some kid punches me right in the face tomorrow. I don’t know why I thought it. Or hoped it. Maybe just yearning for proof and validation, at last, that all this hurting is real.
“It’s like….it’s not that I ever liked getting hit or bitten,” I find myself explaining to a colleague. “It’s just that there was always something so satisfying about that bruise. It’s like, you can see it, so you know then that someone really did hurt you. You can trust yourself that it happened.”
She gasps and nods. “YES. Because you finally have proof!”
They make you feel like it’s your fault. The thing is, when you’re the adult and they’re the child, it actually kind of is your fault.
So we share tips for how we’re teaching about consent whenever we can, in the cracks, in the hallways, any unstructured time, really. She’s braver than me, and straight-up calls it consent. Drills her kiddos on it like it’s going to be part of state testing in the spring. “Do you have her consent? Did you give consent for that?”
She’s also been telling her grrls “You don’t have to be okay with that to be cool,” They roll their eyes, because of course they do. But more often than not, she sees relief on their faces when they hear it.