The teacher’s (emotional) life
[This post is also inspired by this amazing memoir/reflection on academia, A Life in School.]
Academics’ emotional lives are not often topics of discussion, though depression is rampant among academics – I remember seeing an Art Bochner column in Spectra on the topic.
Academics, especially those in the humanities, live very isolated lives. We’re trained to be independent thinkers, we’re not required to work together, and we are evaluated individually – sometimes we’re in competition with each other. So unlike other professions, in our workplace there’s no community to belong to. No team spirit. You’d be amazed to see how little conversation there is in the hallways of Communication departments.
But we’re human, and we find the community we crave in students. For one semester, 1-2 times a week, we’re part of a group, leaders of a pack.
And it’s more than that: Teaching, to me, is an act of care and love. I don’t understand how you can teach someone, how the minds can come into communion, in the absence of care and love.
Every semester, I get emotionally invested in my students’ success. I wake up at night worried about their assignments and email them ideas; I worry about them finding jobs and internships; I cry because I’m so proud of them when they succeed. I don’t always do the best thing (I’m still learning and growing as an educator), but everything I do comes out of a place of love.
And then the semester ends.
I hate being left behind in the empty classroom.
I usually cry.
I can’t handle the thought that this wonderful little community (with its quirks, inside jokes, and little traditions) we have created in class is gone.
I don’t think this is healthy. But no one ever talks about it and how to deal with it. I think teachers need emotional support and training – how do you deal with the many emotions associated with teaching, with working with people?
I don’t know, how do you deal with them?