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.

Dr. V 3: Friends

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?

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3 responses to “The teacher’s (emotional) life”

  1. Andreea (Hirica) Popa says :

    how odd life can get sometimes. I was getting so frustrated, demotivated and sad about how our teachers don’t really care about our education, not to mention career, never treat us as potential professionals, all they care is for us to obtain some good academic marks in order for their evaluation to come out properly.
    don’t quite assume the implications and responsibilities of their job

    i was just trying to find a way to cope with that and go my own way when i ran into your post

  2. Karen Russell says :

    I used to get sad, but after 15+ years teaching I’ve gotten more philosophical about it. I teased the Bateman team last year when they said, “won’t you miss us?” and I said, “No, there’s a whole new group of you next year.” A bit heartless perhaps, but when one group moves out, all that does is make room for another, different but equally interesting group to move in.

  3. Richard Bailey says :

    I’m in your tribe – and it’s true, we don’t talk often about this.

    The other tribe seem to be more vocal: those that appear to find students a distraction from their ‘real’ work of researching and writing.

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