So, "The Today Show" had a poll today about crying in the workplace. I am admittedly against crying of any kind (yes, I know I have issues we can talk about them later), but I am especially against crying at school in front of people, especially when those people happen to be the students I'm teaching.
Now, I LOVE interacting with my students and can get off-track with the best of them, laughing at their jokes, learning the lingo, 'friending' them on FB or doing the good 'ole follow back on Twitter, but there is something private and vulnerable about letting them see me cry. I'm not sure I want my students to know me in this way. Then it hit me and is still hitting me as I type this...I have cried in front of students. During the course of my 14 (almost 15) years of teaching I have cried several times in front of students. There are several different reasons I cried and there are several appropriate reasons to cry at the workplace. I'm not sure that all of my reasons are the most appropriate, but they did let me get to know the students on a more personal and compassionate level.
Let's break it down...
Reasons to NEVER cry in front of students
1. When a kid makes you so upset and hurts your feelings so much you just lose it. To teach you have to have a tough shell and the students have to know that while you love them they are teenagers and you are an adult. When you let one of them hurt your feelings so much that you cry you have lost the audience. Sadder still that audience tells the world that so and so made you cry and you lose credibility for years. I've seen this happen to nice, sweet new teachers. My suggestion: cry during lunch break or go to the bathroom. Or, you can do what I did my first year of teaching and tell a kid, "I promise you, you will cry way before I do." Yipes! I was one tough broad.
2. Over a boy. Or, girl for that matter. Keep your private life private. Now, this one I regretfully know from experience. Your kids know you better than you know them after all they get to study you for long periods of time every day. They know who you like, they know what you dislike and they know who you date...they've seen you out and about (this is especially true in a small town). So, when you and your man friend stop seeing one another, um, they know and when you start crying because you got to school late, burned your neck on your straight iron and just got off the phone with him before entering the building they know you are not crying because you can't figure out how to make your OHP work, it's because of said boy. Probably not a good idea that the kids know so much about you, am I right!? *looks away nervously* Cry in front of your friends instead...um... PS. I think it's OK to cry with your students if they are crying about a boy or a girl...I hate when girls make boys cry and usually also cry if a boy is crying in front of me.
Reasons where it is OK and should be encouraged to cry
1. When a student you know personally, or your students know personally, dies. In the past 14 (almost 15 years) 2 students died of cancer, there are been 4 suicides, a fatal accidental shooting, a murder and several car accidents where students I knew passed away. My heart breaks all over just thinking about these people who I loved so much-this is so tough. On days when things like this happen the show must go on, but you don't have to be a hard ass about it, trust me. I can remember so many times when kids have just stopped by my room while I was teaching to talk or to just find a quiet place after a tragedy happens. I didn't mind crying in the hallway or hugging or crying in front of a whole class at these moments. I also don't mind talking about how precious and wonderful each of them are to me, I don't mind talking to them about being safe because I love them...I don't mind crying a lot. "Why are you crying?" a student asked me one time, "You only met her once." I replied, "I am crying because I know you and you are hurting and that hurts me. I am sorry that I can't do more about it, but talk to you and cry with you." I meant that and still mean it.
2. When someone in your family is hurting or has passed away...I think this includes pets. I cried when my favorite cat died in the middle of the night and I had to go to school the next day. I cried several days before my aunt passed away and several days after I came back. When students asked why I was so upset I didn't mind telling them. Parents sent me flowers, students sent me flowers...even for the cat. I have never forgotten how kind these particular students were to me and I still see that kindness in them to this day (I think they're like 30 years old now!).
3. When something that you are teaching moves you. Every year I get a little misty-eyed when we read Our Town. I cannot help it. I love that play so much just talking about how important it is to live your boring life to its fullest, to talk about cherishing the stupid moments with family and friends so moves me that I can't help it. One year I especially lost it when a student talked about how much she enjoyed the bus ride to school because every morning she got to see the sunrise come up over the hills. What 15 year-old talks that way!? And, would I have gotten to experience such openness had I not already shared how much I love life via the reading of Our Town?
4. When the kids do something so AWESOME that you can't help it. Last year I had a particularly wonderful group of students I hated to see go. I got a little misty-eyed talking to them about how much I'd miss them. I've had students who never ace tests knock one out of the park...I couldn't help, but get misty-eyed talking about how cool that was. When kids are in shows that move me I'm so proud that I can't help but cry...sometimes I also squeal like a little girl especially when a student remembers what I like and buys said thing for me unexpectedly. Gosh I love my students so much!
OK, so I may have to take back what I said about crying in the workplace. I'd also like to apologize to the students that I cried in front of because of a 'boy' or two...and, if I could, I'd take back that venn diagram...you know which one I'm talking about...I was young, I'd like to say it won't happen again, but I'm still a bit impulsive at times.