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Recent postings by special education teacher Ms. Riz offer a unique and articulate glimpse into the emotional life of a dedicated educator. Last week, after one of her colleagues had been hit with a chair by a student, she reflected on the hidden toll of her profession:

The reality of the dangers involved with working with emotionally unstable students hovers over us, ignored, unrecognized, dismissed ... until something like this happens. Then we are pulled into a swirling frenzy of emotion: worry, resentment, then angry resignation.

What toll does this silent, pulsating sense of dread have on us? How does it affect our professional lives? What impact does this heightened stress have on our personal relationships? No doubt, our bodies feel the burden.

Then, in a follow-up posted five days later, she stiffens her resolve:

We need to be tough. We can't complain too loudly when we are exhausted from the physical and emotional abuse we take each day. We know getting hurt is quite likely, which is why feeling worried or overly cautious feels like a betrayal to our chosen profession. (See previous post.) It's part of the job. Don't like it? You don't belong here.

Strong words.

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I worked for three years in a residential treatment facility for "emotionally troubled" kids. I remember the feelings you are describing. I kept going because someone had to care for them - their parents, foster parents, "the system" and even some of my co-workers had given up on them. I was hit a couple of times - fortunately, the agancy had a policy of taking care of employees who had been hurt, plus we had a large enough staff that we would give recently "hurt" staff a break for tough situations.

Once I left for teaching science in an urban high school - those kids eventually left and went to schools, right - I faced much less violent behavior. It amazes me now, 10 years later, how vigilant I had become. I could sense danger long before anything physical happened - sometimes I could head it off, other times not. I survived a concussion and a black eye while breaking up fights. I wouldn't trade my experience in that school for anything; however, I wouldn't want to go back. The majority of kids were super and still come up to me to talk in stores to this day.

The biggest concern about your post is the sound of resignation in your writing. It is not really true that you have to put up with it or get out. There are other positions that you can take to give yourself a break from the violent world you are working in. Remember, THIS IS NOT REALITY! Most kids and adults are kind, caring and not about to explode if you use the "wrong" word or tone of voice. I would highly recommend taking a break and looking at what you have been doing from a distance for a year or more and then decide if you want to return. If nothing else, the break will bring about a refreshing slate of new "problems and obstacles" that you can compare to what you are doing. These are supposed to be known as "challenges" - in more PC language.

Good luck and bless you for caring for some of the most difficult students any teacher can have.

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