Saturday 29 September 2012

Like A Candle

A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others.

I don't know what it is about teaching an A2 class. More so than any of the other classes I teach, these students get to me. Perhaps it's the fact that I am their only biology teacher for two years, but even the Year 2 BTECs don't have such a profound effect on me.

This year is taking a lot - my wick is burning very quickly at the moment. I have high achievers who need to do better in their A-level Biology exams than I ever did (I scraped a B, which made my decision to do Natural Sciences (Physical) a stroke of genius), because they have a realistic punt at Oxbridge or medical school. I have some at the opposite end of the spectrum who I feel like I'm hauling up from a D or E to a C using the world's most inefficient pulley. I have some coasting in the middle, who I want to grab by the shoulders, shake and scream "Why won't you work? You could do so well!" And I have my fair share of utterly heartbreaking situations.

They're all under my skin, despite half the class asking me in my first lesson when their other teacher was coming back from maternity leave (honest answer? I hope never, because I don't like sharing). I know if I let every year continue like this, if I come home every Wednesday and Friday and cry my eyes out for what they're going through, then I'll burn out way before I'm too old for them to want to go down the pub with me after their final exam.

On the other hand, I can't make myself put up an emotional barrier to them. Some of them won't talk to their tutor or the counselling service, and I'm fighting a losing battle trying to get some to see their doctors about depression. I'm all they've got. And I can't separate the caring and support from the emotional involvement. I don't know how other teachers do it.

I'm consuming myself trying to light the way for my students. It will be the end of me. But like the candle, it's my sole purpose in life. So I'd better keep burning.

1 comment:

  1. A difficult thing indeed. You have a maternal tenderness about you that is both strength and vulnerability. I would hate to see that dwindle and die, but a thicker hide would spare you from burning out, and it would be horrible for you to burn out.

    You must do what is right for you. You can't help your students from in the funny farm. It is the cold arithmetic of necessity, that a thicker hide won't let you help a given individual quite so deeply as you do, but should let you help classes to a reasonable standard for a couple decades longer. Sacrificing occasional awesomeness for being consistently above par and maintaining your own mental health is not an unreasonable decision to make. It is also worth considering that you aren't a social worker or a counsellor, and that you only have the time, the energy, the training and the authority to do so much. Social workers are underfunded and ineffective as a rule, but at least they're doing it nine to five with a lunch break.

    Sorry for being harsh and blunt about it. You're awesome, but if mere excellence would keep you strong then that'll have to be fair enough.


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