The Sunshines and I had a heart to heart yesterday. We read (meaning I read and they listened, but whatever) an essay from TIME magazine talking about what a lonely job the American Presidency is. How no one else can really relate to the decisions you have to make, and how every relationship changes based on you now being "the leader of the free world". I then compared the loneliness I sometimes feel in my job to that of the President. (Yes, I know, it was a bit conceited, but it was the springboard I needed for this conversation. Work with me here.) Being the only teacher in my program (for now anyway...) means there is no one to bounce ideas off of who can offer tried and true advice. Sure, I talk to other teachers in my building, but my kids wouldn't be mine if regular classroom management techniques worked for them. It's also lonely to keep working to engage them in their education while they resist me constantly. (It's one of the reasons I read to them-- it's not that they can't read, but if I read it to them as we discuss it, they can't hide from the discussion.) I know they don't like school, but it's my job to help them learn what they need to earn their diplomas... and some days that is a very lonely battle. And finally, and probably the most isolating part of my gig, is knowing that as hard as I work to help them make good choices in those 6 hours I have them, they're not always going to listen to me. They're going to make choices that get them in trouble-- with the law, with their friends and family, with their bodies. Most of them don't have easy lives-- one thing or another gets in the way of them being allowed to just 'be a kid'. And while lonley isn't the best vocab word for that feeling, it made sense in the conversation.
I know all they can do is try to make better choices, and I do believe they do just that... but trying and succeeding are two separate issues. Changing habits is hard work, and all I can do is support them in their attempts to make changes. And remind them that I still like them, even when I don't like their choices; if I didn't, it wouldn't bother me so much. It was a heavy way to end the week, but I think we all felt a little lighter for having had the conversation.