The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Monday, July 12, 2004

Somehow the more I try to distance myself from serving as a counsellor
to troubled teens the more problems I encounter, and the more
responsible I feel for their well-being. I know I'm not able to solve
their problems, I also know that my interference is neither needed nor
asked for, but I do find it draining on the old heart strings when
faced with real pain from a child.

It happens too often. I nearly roared at the inequity when a
colleague mentioned that she'd never had a child threaten suicide or
self-harm. I get at least one every two years.

There's a niggling sense of worry that perhaps somehow I invite such
confidences, albeit unwittingly. Watching Clueless again, the lead
character determines how to change the grades on her report card by
feeding each teacher the line that will best work - to the butch PE
mistress: a guy used her cruelly, to the ditzy English teacher: a boy
broke her heart forever... wait a minute - ditzy English teacher?

The fact remains - children's confidences can be emotionally
coruscating. I make attempts not to get too close, too near speaking to
children on their level. I protect myself from them, and in a sense
them from me, just in case these confidences speak partially to my own
needs. (my highest pile of ordure is reserved for those teachers who do
the job simply as a post-adolescent means to get attention.) If a child
is upset, I ask other students to remain present, or for their
assistance in counselling their friend. If they show signs of mental
collapse, I urge a medical appointment.

As far as I can, I try not to be some sort of martyr to whom anyone can
turn. More a clearing house for problems which I won't have to carry
home with me. Does that sound cold?

And still they confide. And still I find it draining to know the details of young
lives made so hard so early.

I guess it's a stressful, strange world.