That's a word I didn't imagine that I would be using on a regular basis when I got into the teaching biz. Maybe if I worked in an emergency room, that would make more sense. The kind of thing I got used to hearing about when I was an habitual viewer of ER. You know, guys being wheeled in on a stretcher with a tent pole sticking out of their midsection, victims of some bizarre camping accident. Generally, the good folks at the hospital would put things right with a procedure or a trip to the operating room. There was always some tension, some grief, some tears, but mostly the trauma was the kind that could be remedied by some stitches and fresh bandages. The most interesting thing, we learned by watching all those episodes, was what living in that heightened reality does to the people who deal with bizarre camping accidents on a regular basis.
It has become apparent to me that working in an urban elementary school provides me with a similar kind of visceral mind wash. Coping with children of divorce, children who have been ignored, or abandoned, or mistreated in little and big ways has had an impact on me. I remember now how the guy who first interviewed me to become part of a credentialing program chuckled at my answer when he asked why I thought I could be a teacher. The answer I gave him: "I'm good with kids." At the time, it felt a little cold. Why wouldn't that be a good thing?
I know now why he laughed. "Good with kids" means you can entertain your niece or nephew. It means you can amuse a group of two or three youngsters in your charge until their parents arrive. It means you don't harbor an active dislike for children. Being able to deal with children who have experienced lives of quiet and not so quiet desperation and herding them into rooms where they bump up against one another's sharp edges is another matter entirely.
As it turns out, I am pretty good at dealing with children who have experienced trauma. It is not the jolly ringmaster's job that I had envisioned so many moons ago, but the gore is generally limited to bloody noses and scraped knees. On the outside. The world in which so many of these kids live in bears little or no resemblance to the suburban neighborhoods of my own youth. The scars these kids are nursing are on the inside. And as soon as I can get them to realize that there are adults that want to help and will stay with them even when they growl and hiss, I will teach them how to read.
Or play a game.