The water works

Yesterday, I did the unthinkable. I cried in front of my class. It was as much as a surprise to me as it was to them. Two girls got up to come hug me, I put out my hand to stop them. We’d already crossed enough boundaries for one day.

It was at a point where I just didn’t know what else I could do. My brain appeared to believe there was no other alternative.

Nature gives us two instincts to deal with all scenarios that might face us. Fight or flight. To fight is to to stay, to try to win. To flight is to retreat and reconsider. In teaching, we can do neither.

And even if we could, would any sane human stay and try to do battle with 30 screaming, shouting, chest baring, battle hungry etc’s? I think not. And yet in teaching, we must. And we must do it without really fighting either. To go against this instinct requires a great deal of physical and emotional strength. So perhaps it is unsurprising that I ended up crying given I am in the red on both these.

Where is my 1 up?

The fact is, I’m sending my body a lot of mixed messages at the moment and I think my poor brain has become very confused by this. Yes, in addition to breaking my sweat glands, this job is also breaking my brain.

Stay with me for the bad science bit.

Those hormones responsible for all the sweating are sending the right signals but because my brain knows I have to stay and fight, albeit in a calm and caring manner, there’s a bit of a conflict in responses. I can’t chest bare back, I can’t run away. So that, presumably, left nothing else for it. Brain told me to cry. So I did.

Those that can’t. Cry.

Next time, I will put my own oxygen mask*on first.

(*Hat tip to the GTC blogger for the marvelous analogy)

Edit: I originally wasn’t going to blog about this because I didn’t want my class to find it. However, a few Tweets into my day off and I’ve been informed that I needn’t have worried. A quick google of ‘teacher crying’ would return countless thousands of posts from all over the world. Turns out, we’re expected to cry. I can’t decide if this is a good thing or not.


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3 thoughts on “The water works

  1. I don’t think I’ve actually cried in front of a class, but come close enough that it was obvious I was choking it back. From the kids’ point of view I suspect that amounts to near enough the same thing.

    One time with a Y9 class the floodgates did open after the lesson, just as one of the nice ones came back to check I was OK (it was break time). I remember that, and the student who expressed that concern, even though I can’t remember who & what caused the upset in the first place.

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