Ok, I'll be honest, I don't actually work in coal mines. I think coal mines would be safer :)
On Friday, I went back to work after a month of recovery - actually about 2 weeks of recovery and two weeks of hanging out bored silly. Now, I've been working for three days and it almost feels like three months. I'm so tired!
My day consists of teaching seven classes, five different titles to approximately 120 total students. Other teachers reading this are thinking "well, 120 students in one day isn't that many, I have 250!" This is true, I used to be in a "regular" school with hundreds of students under my wing. Two years ago, I switched gears and now teach at a specialized school. Normally, specialized implies gifted students, or those focused on arts, culinary programs, etc. I WISH that was the case. I work at a specialized school for students that haven't figured out that the rules of civilized society also apply to them. My students have been expelled from at least one, if not multiple, other schools. Some have been expelled for being dumb - coming to school high, forgetting that their weed pipe was in their backpack. Others have been expelled for being criminals - fighting, stealing, you name it. These are the toughest of the tough kids. Their behavior leaves a lot to be desired and academics aren't typically high on the list of things that are important.
To say the least, these students are exhausting. While it's not what I want to do, I spent quite a bit of time fighting with them to follow the rules. But, hey, that's why they are there in the first place - they don't want to follow rules. My rules are not hard: No cursing, don't talk when someone else is talking or you should be working, don't ask me for passes - you're not going anywhere, do your work. That's pretty much it. If a student can manage to follow those four simple rules they will likely do well in my class.
Despite the exhaustion - once a while, there is a bright spot. Yesterday a student returned to give me a status update. Last year, he started off on the wrong foot and butted heads with me over everything. After about a month of his horrid behavior, we had a "come to Jesus" talk in the office in the presence of the principal (I essentially told the student that he was smart and much better than his behavior and needed to get his ass in line) and he made a drastic turn-around, almost instantly. He went from failing grades and horrid behavior to As and leading the class in participation and discussion. I made sure that he knew I recognized this and that he was recognized to the principal. I'd never seen a 17 year old kid glow like that before.
Yesterday, he came back to tell me that he'd graduated a month early and was enlisted in the US Air Force. He told me that our talk (or, my yelling, depending on how you want to look at it), was the first time that anyone had ever told him that he was smart and being that he knew he'd been a jerk to me, he believed I was being honest. He wanted me to know that he'd been inspired to do more with his life.
In that moment, it was all worthwhile.