Wednesday, May 28, 2008

stages of grieving

yesterday i learned that two of my kiddos wont be coming back to our school next year. i'd always known it could be a possibility, but had truly hoped it wouldn't happen. we've been through a lot this year and if i'm honest with myself i've probably bonded with them more than any other children i've ever worked with. that in itself says a lot. the last few months i've begun to realize this bond exists and i've begun to worry about what will happen when i have to hand them off to new case managers next year. but at least i thought i'd still be in the building with them, and the possibility that i'd get to be their case manager existed.

but i was slowly becoming aware that i might be too attached. the realization that they are not my own is one i don't like to think about. i frequently joke with my husband about adopting them. at least, he thinks i'm joking. on weekends i lay in bed wondering if they are ok. i know i've bonded with them in a way that might not be best for any of us. i am only their teacher, and not even their classroom teacher at that. i'm not their mother, and they are not my kids. it's a harsh reality, but its also a line i need to keep in mind.

i was doing research on how to best help them and i found one website that reminded caretakers of children with their specific disability that we are merely caretakers. as teachers we can't replace the bond the kids should have with their parents, and if we did something would seriously be wrong. we can't become psychiatrists, pediatricians, or priests. reading the words in the article seemed harsh to me. what do you mean i'm ONLY their teacher? do you have any idea of what we've been through this year? do you know what we do for them?

but it's true.

it doesn't make it hurt less.

at first i was in denial about them moving. 'maybe it's not true' i thought, re-reading the email many times. 'maybe it wont happen'. and then anger at their family. 'how dare they take them away from me?' (obviously this is NOT what i was logically angry about, but if i'm honest that is what i was thinking.)

then the bargaining stage... well, if i can at least help them transition to their new school. maybe i can send them cards there. maybe i'll research their new program and help out.

and now the depression. last night my husband wondered what was wrong with me as i sat staring into space. today at a meeting i could barely focus and a few times found myself thinking, "who cares? why does it matter anyway?" i couldn't even get excited about discussing lucy calkins and writing workshop. this isn't me.

i fell asleep when i came home this afternoon and slept through my class at the gym. as though sleeping will change it all and make it go away.

and so, in the steps of grief, i know acceptance will come. and with it the lesson that my role is to help them meet their IEP goals, help them adapt to their school environment, and do what i can to help them be great people in life. my role is not to be their mother. i may need to repeat that to myself a few times.

at a school like mine with a population like mine the line between teacher and mother becomes blurred. co-workers got mothers day presents and cards from their students. we find ourselves doing tasks that only parents should do. we find ourselves wondering, 'if i'm doing all this, shouldn't i be the mother?'

perhaps this year i blurred the line too much. i know a first year teacher whose been told not to care so much. but those of us who 'care too much', isn't it in our nature that caring too much makes us do our best work?

and so i'm settled in with my depression tonight. it's ok to be sad. i just hope their new school will let them thrive and that their new teachers will love them as much as we do.

more importantly, i hope their family bonds and comes together in a way where our outside help isn't required so much. i hope they have one another and take care of one another in a way that allows for healthy attachments which in turn will help them form healthy attachments later in life to build their own families and be good husbands and daddies to their own children.

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