Teaching is one of the most important professions. Without good teachers, children everywhere wouldn't have the tools they need to succeed in the world. Teachers are consistently undervalued and underpaid for the immense impact they have. And there is another side to teaching that we rarely hear about, which was brought to our attention by teacher Annie Demczak in a now-viral Facebook post.
In her post, Annie explains that she loves teaching but that teachers are constantly told to suck it up when it comes to experiencing violence at the hands of their students. Not only are teachers responsible for educating our kids, but it also seems they are responsible for absorbing the brunt of their bad behavior and letting it slide, no matter the physical or emotional toll it has on them. And that's not OK.
"We tell women (and men) that if someone hits you, screams at you, tells you that they're going to kill you, tell you they're going to bring a gun and shoot you, steals from you, destroys your things, threatens your friends, curses at you, mocks you, makes fun of your physical appearance, GET HELP. RUN AWAY. IT IS NOT OKAY. LEAVE THE ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP. CUT TIES," Annie wrote on Facebook.
"YET," she continues, "when a student does any of the above to a teacher, we don't acknowledge it as a red flag, we give them no consequences, we allow it to continue without any regard to a teacher's well-being, safety, or mental health. In such toxic situations, we continue to ask teachers to show up with a smile on their face, ignore the issues, reward dangerous and toxic behavior, and do as you're told."
"Teaching is the most toxic profession I know of," Annie writes. "I am so SICK and disgusted of seeing young, fresh, energetic, bubbly, WONDERFUL teachers think that being assaulted at their workplace is OKAY. I am so SICK and disgusted of seeing experienced, wise, INCREDIBLE seasoned teachers think that being assaulted at their workplace is OKAY.
"I love all my students. I love the students with trauma. I love the students with mental illness. I love the difficult students. I love the violent students...because I’m a teacher and my heart is made of glitter and marshmallows and happiness and rainbows. Loving little people with abandon is what I freaking do.
"But sometimes, loving someone looks like setting boundaries. Consequences. Hard conversations. Seeking additional support. Reporting dangerous behavior. Standing your ground. Finding alternative placements. Stop worrying if you’re tenured. Stop saying, 'They’re just kids.' Stop being scared of the parents or of administration. Stop wondering if you should tell someone.
"Stop giving up because no one will do anything. Stop thinking you should be PHYSICALLY assaulted and VERBALLY berated at your job. Stop thinking that having intense anxiety and depression surrounding your workplace is NORMAL. It is not okay. This is not what we signed up to do.
"You are a wonderful, caring, amazing person who has the biggest heart for wanting to help little people...but don’t you dare think that it is OKAY to be ABUSED and TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF at your workplace. We would never tolerate it in any other area of our lives. This is no different.
"If you have teacher friends, check on them. If you’re a parent, please ask your child EVERY DAY what happened at school that day. Please speak up for the well-being of teachers. We are trying so damn hard for your kids. You are more powerful than you realize. You can help protect our teachers. You have the power to call our school systems to something better.
"We have GOT to do better. Teachers, you’re amazing and when I leave the classroom, I will still always have your back for as long as I live."
Those are some powerful words. We often don't understand just what teachers go through on a day-to-day basis. They are tasked with dealing with kids from all backgrounds with all types of behavioral and mental health issues. Schools, unfortunately, often put their teachers' safety and and well-being on the back burner for the sake of making kids and parents happy, and that's not OK.
According to Yahoo, a 2018 government study found that 10 percent of public school teachers have reported being threatened with injury by a student. Six percent have reported being physically attacked. These numbers are higher than they've ever been, and they're likely skewed, as many, many teachers — one in five, to be exact — said they do not report such incidences.
The study's lead author Eric Anderman said in a press release, "You would think that the first thing a teacher would do after a violent encounter or threat would be to tell the school's administrators, but 20 percent aren't even doing that. That's disturbing. Too many teachers aren't talking to anyone about what happened."
And according to the incredible response to Annie's post, many teachers have felt the same way she does. Many administrations make it clear that they're not going to support their own teachers. They make them fear what could happen if they report violence. One commenter wrote, "Literally had a convo in the hallways after school with other teachers about this... THIS IS RELATABLE. Which is sad."
"This is so truthful," another person wrote. "It is sad that the system never takes any of our concerns as teachers seriously."
No one should be forced to deal with violence and threats at their job. For some reason, we have collectively accepted the false idea that teachers signed up to be abused by their students. Just because they're kids doesn't mean their appalling behavior should slide. Teachers have rights and deserve for their physical and mental health to be made a priority at their job, just like anyone else.