The Audacity of Help

I have been on Spring Break, which for me, included my first road trip with fiancée. We drove down the coast to look at wedding sites and spent a good amount of time in the Santa Barbara hills being extraordinarily lost. We probably drove by Oprah hanging out at her house in Montecito and never noticed because we were looking at the crappy tourist map that has left out entire roads or were trying to get reception on our iPhones for google maps. My point is, we were lost and needed to ask for directions.

Ha! You think this story is headed in the direction (no pun intended) about how men don’t ask for directions. But you are wrong. I am the one who will drive around for 45 minutes rather than stop and ask. My name is Rebecca, and I hate asking for directions. I made my poor fiancée waste our preciously expensive gas because I am too stubborn to ask for help.

Now I have written before about how people in the helping field are sometimes over-helpers. Myself included, I’ve noticed another trend among my fellow educators of not asking for help when it is clearly needed. For example, I was at a school once on a crisis call in which an entire yard of students had witnessed a shooting. The platoon of psychologists came in and tried to see which students were the most affected to provide counseling. Turns out, most of the students see this kind of thing all the time, and they were coping just fine (with the exception of those who were close to the victim, of course). It was the teachers that needed the help.

I remember this one teacher who was being so strong for her class that she shoved down all her own feelings to take care of her students. At the end of the day, she was still determined to run a previously scheduled curriculum meeting, even though it would have been perfectly appropriate to reschedule it. She was stressed out because she didn’t have her handouts made yet. We met with her and convinced her that she needed to go home and take care of herself. As they say on airplanes, “In case of emergency, please put oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others.” I would go so far as to say that most urban educators I know who have left the field did so because they didn’t care for themselves as much as they cared for their students. As a result, they were left with little oxygen to continue.

And do you know what I noticed today on my first day back from Spring Break today? Happy rested teachers, happy kids. Well, mostly happy kids. As happy as a bunch of middle schoolers are to go back to school. I found myself and staff members laughing at their antics, rather than getting annoyed they were off-track.*

Ultimately, we did end up pulling over for directions. And we ended up meeting a teacher whose son was getting married and she gave us some local tips on where to find good caterers and wedding sites. And my fiancée didn’t say “I told you so” once. And that is why the wedding is still on.

*Let’s face it, how can 8th graders NOT make jokes during a properties of matter lesson about gas? Can a 7th grader really let it slide when the teacher talks about the planet Uranus? It’s just not possible.

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