I teach in a high needs elementary school. Our school services (by postal code) the poorest area in British Columbia. Aside from breakfast and lunch, we provide clothing, school supplies, and subsidized field trips. Attendance lists change often. Phone numbers do too.
This is my first year here. Even though I have been a teacher for many years, I am relearning to be a teacher in this place. As I unpack boxes from my old school, I realize I have packed my best quilts and parkas only to arrive in a tropical country.
The first week I notice the obvious: weak skills, short attention spans, spotty attendance. The smell of urine. An upset kid banging his head. Another hissing when I get too close.
So I’ve been working to build trust. It’s a slow process, but I have faith in slow processes.
If this year is rock climbing, I’m having trouble finding footholds. Dangling by one arm, I hear other staff members: “Feel to your right! Put your foot there! Good, now lean on the rope.” By God, there’s a rope. It’s snug around my waist. Even if I drop, I won’t die.
I’m starting my ascent. My team is beside me, which is phenomenally comforting, because for the first time in my career, I think my survival depends on it.