There is a story about a woman named Draupadi, in the Indian epic of the Mahabharata. In a nutshell, she is gambled by her husband who loses his bet and he has to give her up to some evil men. In order to prove she is not worthy of respect any longer, they immediately try to disrobe her. She is clutching her sari tightly and screaming for help. This goes on for a while, until she can bear it no longer. She finally lets go, and throws her arms up in the air. As the men continue to pull at the garment, the god Krishna comes down in the form of a never ending sari, and all that is left is a pile of fabric that grows bigger the more then men pull at it. As soon as she let go, the universe provided for her.
Remember that time I didn’t sign my contract to go back to teaching preschool? I was meant to be free, and find my purpose, and not get punched in the face by children less than half my size (more on this later.) When I chose not to sign my contract, I made myself promise to be open to hearing about every opportunity that came to pass.
Well, open I was. During a conversation with a former college professor, he asked if I would be interested in teaching somewhere else. I said, half jokingly, that someone would literally have to hand me a perfect position. Fast forward AN HOUR. I kid you not. ONE HOUR. An email arrives in my inbox from my prof asking if he could introduce me to the principal at a small elementary school in rural VT. They need a 1st and 2nd grade combined classroom teacher, and he thinks I’d be just perfect.
Turns out, I am. I signed a contract this very day, and I couldn’t be more excited to go from Danielle to Miss G, come the autumn of 2016. The past two years were very difficult for many reasons. Most days I felt like a bad teacher, like I couldn’t serve children the way they needed to be served, simply because they needed more from me than I could give to them. I am not a special educator, (although I am happy to support those children in my classroom who need one), a therapist, a board certified behavior analyst or a child psychiatrist. However, I know in my core I am meant to work with children in some capacity and I need to make sure I don’t miss that window. I couldn’t turn this job down.
This year showed me that teachers with the best intentions and lots of love for their students get hurt at school. I didn’t expect a child to give me a bloody nose that wasn’t an accident. Restraining a four year old for my and their own safety was not on the list of things I imagined when I wanted to be a teacher. I know what it feels like to have to “lean into a bite” in order to free your arm from a child’s mouth. It’s not like these things stopped, I just got better at blocking and defending myself. The hardening that you have to do in order to be able to do that kind of work, was something I couldn’t reconcile. I was being told to stay two feet away from my kids. Impossible. They are four! FOUR. They need closeness. At the same time, the physical abuse on a daily basis was traumatic. I sought therapy, and I felt ridiculous for doing so, because I essentially admitted that a bunch of children beat me up, and that it made me leave work crying every day.
That’s when I knew it was time to walk away. Perhaps someone can do this better than I can. Perhaps someone else has the capacity to handle this, where I can’t. I hope someone does, because I love these kids, but I also value my sanity. When I say I love them, I mean, I also cry at home to my partner about how I wish I could do more, but I have no idea what else to do. And if you know me, you know I’m not standing there wringing my hands. I have exhausted all of my resources and all of my reserves. At the risk of becoming resentful, I had to step away. When I let go, without an exact plan for what would happen next, I stepped into Draupadi’s shoes. They feel good. I feel good. I don’t know what else to say except that I changed my mind. I’d apologize for throwing everyone for a loop, but this is who I am. I am a teacher, and I will never be sorry about that. Stay tuned.