It’s often only after I’ve come home from a full day of work that I am able to truly understand how bizarre my day has been. As a special education teacher for adults with emotional behavioral disorders, many times it takes telling my husband out loud about my workday to realize that anything has even been out of the ordinary.
It occurred to me one day when I was telling my husband about a school picnic we had had at a park that afternoon. “Two of the students almost got into a fight over how the hotdogs were cooked,” I said nonchalantly. “You mean a yelling fight?” my husband asked, thinking that this was the most likely thing to have happened. “No,” I continued, “a knock down drag out fight. The staff had to jump in the middle and separate them,” I said. “That sounds exciting,” replied my husband, a look of incredulity on his face. “No, not really,” I said. Only then did I realize that to me, this wasn’t particularly exciting; it wasn’t even unusual.
Every day when I go to work I have to be prepared for the unexpected. No matter how meticulous my planning or how calm things may seem when I get there, I know it won’t last. A student will show up high or will tell me how they witnessed someone getting shot five times over the weekend. Someone will leave school in a screaming rage or blow up because another student accidentally stepped on their shoe. Once I attempted a field trip to the art museum, only to have it be derailed at the coat check; the students didn’t think they could trust the museum’s security not to steal their stuff.
I’ve had to learn how to redirect my student’s attention and how to not let the horror of each situation show on my face. “So, your ex-boyfriend's in jail for killing somebody, huh,” I said the other day, nodding my head up and down as if to say we all have one of these. Yesterday, when my student told me that he woke up feeling like fighting somebody, I merely responded with, “Well, we all feel that way sometimes. You’re doing a good job at being calm.”
Although I am thankful that every workday is different and that it keeps me on my toes, I suppose that I am even more grateful to come home each night to my predictable, stable, ordinary life.