inde Stand With Educators pt. 2 – Kind Cotton

By Kaitlin Johnstone

Stand With Educators pt. 2

I stayed at school for hours while I was miscarrying. I’ll repeat that. I was pregnant with our first child, had seen the heartbeat the day prior, was told by our doctor that after seeing the heartbeat there is only a 4% chance of something bad happening, and there I stood in my classroom spotting, scared, and in pain. I finally stepped outside after sitting a few times to catch my breath in between math songs and number talks (sorry non-teacher friends) to call my doctor. They tried reassuring me that everything would be ok and to go home and rest. I called

my husband and the tears came streaming down my face. “Something is wrong”, I proclaimed. But, as many teachers do, I felt the need to keep going about my day. I wiped my tears, put a smile back on my face, and walked through the classroom door greeted by 20 incredible little humans. I made it through most of the day and finally called my principal who graciously told me to go home immediately. As I lay on my bathroom floor, hours later, unable to speak because my blood pressure kept dropping due to the pain, my husband called an ambulance. Even in those moments I thought of sub plans. I thought of not being able to simply call out sick in the field of education.  A few hours later, after an intrusive ultrasound and lots of blood loss, we were told that I had lost the baby. My heart sank. I built a career around loving other people’s children. I helped them grow. I have tied a thousand shoes. Put on a million band aids. Provided a trillion consoling hugs, yet motherhood felt as though it was taken from me faster than I can gather children for recess. I was broken. Teaching in the days after a miscarriage was hard. Seeing my students was hard. Hearing colleagues discuss their own kids was hard. On top of grieving, we were rolling out new RTI paperwork. I had three IEP meetings in a week. Oh, and parent teacher conferences during prep time as well as before and after school because in many states you don’t receive conference days. I was run down, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted. However, if you ask any parent or student from that year they would never know. Why? Because it is so ingrained in the education profession to keep pushing. To set aside your life, your family, and your well being for the lives of others. We are not given appropriate pay. In fact, we are one of the lowest paid field of workers who have their master’s degrees. Our time off does not make up the 12-15 hour days we put in without complaining. There were many days I wasn’t able to eat lunch. Often times, we go hours without peeing because you can’t simply leave children unsupervised. We make more decisions in a 7-hour time period than brain surgeons do and yet it is all good because we are changing the world.

Do not get me wrong, I LOVE teaching. It is my passion. There is nothing better in the world than having the eyes of 20 5-year old’s light up with excitement as you read a new story. Hearing them discuss justice is music to my ears and watching them learn new concepts is almost as amazing as waking up on Christmas morning. I love it with every ounce of my being, and I am a damn good teacher (hopefully no former students are reading). But I also have needs that often go unseen. There is a reason that teachers have one of the highest turnover rates of any profession and it is because we are not treated as professionals. We get a pat on the back along with more work. We get a free lunch compiled with more work. We are told we are amazing, but here’s more work. We do not receive raises, but we do obtain more work served up with a side of toxic positivity.

"Think of all you are doing for kids."
"It will be better."
"Things are not too bad."

We are told repeatedly we are able to handle anything that comes our way. And in doing so you are taking away our opportunity to make mistakes. You are stripping our feelings. You are making us feel as if we cannot take care of ourselves. It is no wonder that amidst a global pandemic, teachers were not only expected to be back in the classroom regardless of their high-risk status here in Florida, but they also have to completely relearn their craft. They are handed double the work on top of teaching in uncomfortable situations. They are giving up seeing their own families due to not wanting to risk infecting them. And in some cases, they are utterly disrespected and not even thought of while parents scream and moan about their children having to wear a mask. In my district, we made the national news because a mom group of privileged white women sued over the discomfort of their children having to do so. Where is the compassion for educators? Where is the empathy?

I often think of my privilege in being able to be home with Kenzie this year and I think of when I first announced my leave, I was scared to truly use my voice. Yes, I wrote about my experience and standing with educators, but I wasn’t as vocal as I should have been. It is crucial that we discuss that this is NOT ok. Teachers and administrators alike are trying their absolute best to stay afloat this school year, and I recognize the importance of people speaking out.

My friend Alexis inspired me greatly to speak my truth. To tell the full story behind the crisis that Public Education is facing. We have spent countless hours and many months discussing what we can do to help teachers during this time, and we are excited to share our new release with you. For every t-shirt sold, a portion of the proceeds will go towards sponsoring an educator to join the Burned-In Teacher Mastermind.

Burned-In Teacher empowers burned-out teachers to believe that they deserve and can achieve a happier and more fulfilled career and life. BIT stands by the belief that in order to protect the mental health of teachers, special attention should be paid to practicing more than conventional self-care.

The mental health of educators is important and so often glossed over, which is why we felt empowered to speak up.

 I recently had to make the toughest decision of my life all over again. I had to choose whether to return to the classroom this upcoming year and quite frankly I still have a lot of self-reflection to do before going back to a situation that I feel was handled poorly. That once again put teachers last. I am tired of having to prove our worth, so here is my message to all of you. To the teachers who stay at school until 7PM every night , take time for yourself. To the teacher who never calls out, take your personal days. To the teachers scared to return during a pandemic, do your best to protect you and your family. The reality is that there is only one you and you can and will be replaced quickly. But, please know there are others out here fighting. There are places trying to change the field of education and that is what this tee symbolizes. Know that although I will not be in the classroom this year, I will forever be a teacher and I will continue to STAND WITH EDUCATORS


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