Thursday, October 1, 2009


I have loved scary movies since I saw The Exorcist and the original Halloween at the drive-in with my dad. When I was ten years old. To this day, when I am 10-plus-30something years old, I get the same rollercoaster-stomachache feeling when I enter a theater to watch a horror movie. And it is good; I thrive on plunging into the depths of fear and emerging whole.
But ever since those first viewings, I have realized that the scariest parts are not the ones filled with monsters or blood or gore (nor spewed pea soup). What is most terrifying is the remorseless emptiness in the villains - that sense of not caring when people are sick with fear, when they are stunned & paralyzed by the ugly indifference & utter violence from former loved ones. Not only not caring but reveling in the terror they inspire. That is the part I most wish wasn't real.
Here is something truly heartstopping: my job, as a high school teacher, contains so much of this kind of scary that I occasionally [often] dare gory imaginary monsters to try overrunning my school; I could see myself going totally Buffy on supernatural creatures in a minute; I can feel the adrenaline rising in my usually unenergetic body right now.

Unfortunately, taking on the abusive, monstrous mothers or fathers or stepparents or siblings of my students is painfully impossible. Not just because many of them are distant or disappeared, but because they are still loved and protected by my students, their victims. How do you fight a perpetrator that the victim refuses to identify? I walk a tightrope between disputing horrific behavior - people telling children they are stupid, unwanted, good-for-nothing - and upholding the sanctity of family. Even beaten-down teenagers want to believe they have mothers & fathers & stepparents & siblings who love and protect them. If I say those people are wicked and wrong, what do these kids have left? Just me and my colleagues, but we're only available to them 8 hours a day. I like to think 8 hours a day for 180 days a year can make a difference, but I'm not so sure.
All I can do is pray for them, by the minute sometimes, and show up every day, just in case.

Their pasts, and their future, haunt me.
watch me try to post everyday for NaBloPoMo in October


San Diego Momma/Two Funny Brains said...

This hurts my heart to read, so I cannot imagine seeing it live and up close every day.

I absolutely believe that you have a positive impact even in 8 hours on these kids. And the fact that you care so much is bound to make a difference.

P.S. I love scary movies too.
P.P.S. And Buffy.

LarryG said...

sounds like somebody is going to be having "class movie day" soon.
Don't forget the popcorn and soda.

shrink on the couch said...

I used to work with these very parents. Group therapy for parents who were suspected of abuse. At least, in my capacity, I could hold their hand to the fire. For 12 weeks, anyway. In your case, it's such a helpless feeling. But I do sometimes find, when a kid defends the badness, it can help to show some empathy for the parent, "oh they must have had a really tough day to say something like that to you." It sometimes takes the kid off their auto-defensive stance. Might give you an "in." But yeah, I feel for you teachers. You are on the front lines.

And as for horror movies? Oh no. Cannot go there. I saw Halloween when it first came out. That was enough for me.

Anonymous said...

and that is why you are an exceptional teacher

you may never know what impact you have had on the life of a particular student, but rest assured that you are making a difference

Ami said...

You know it makes a difference, that's why you put your heart into it.

I see some of those things at work, too. The ones that haunt me the most are the kids in foster care who pass through the program, then are moved again. And I never learn the rest of their story. And never know if they're okay, if someone loves them, if someone is caring for their little wounded spirits.

I like to hope that they have teachers who are doing so, because I know their home lives are not likely to be nurturing or loving.

Yeah, you make a difference.

Gretchen said...

I don't know how you do it every day, year after year. You have some amazing persistence, sister.

Janet said...

I'm sorry...I can't imagine how tough that is.

Very Mary said...

I have one right now whose hurt is so deep that I just want to hug her every single second of every single day. And when she smiles? oh. wow.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

You know they are so very blessed to have you.

Really and truly. <3

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I have a better idea of what you mean than ever before. It's probably best not told in a comment, but I'll email you.

Alison said...

I choose to believe that someday many of them will look back and realize their parents were wrong to abuse them and that a good teacher who cared for them and believed in them was a priceless gift. I need to believe it will make a difference in the long run since I am going back to teaching!

My dad, a pastor who has seen many such situations, says, "Love always wins. It just takes longer."

brandy101 said...


I will pray along with you...

Melanie Sheridan said...

It's apparent how much you care and that absolutely will come through to the kids. You are making a difference.


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