10:05am. I impatiently sat on a sofa in the middle of my high school library glaring at a clock as it spent an eternity displaying this number. With my scraggly hair undone and my clothing disheveled, I glanced around the room, desperately looking for a distraction to take my mind off the time. My anxious eyes finally swept over to the long walls of windows and I stared outside into the distance, thinking about the endless amount of work assigned for school, the drama tearing my family apart at home, and my feelings for a certain someone consuming my entire existence, making it impossible for me to keep complete focus on any other subject, when suddenly – bweeee! Never have I been more grateful to hear the shrilling sound of the school bell signaling the end of my free period and the beginning of my third hour English class.
The spring of my senior year of high school puzzled me. I had a difficult time navigating the rushing waters of my stress, coming from a multitude of sources. The solitude of walking from the library to class during the calm spring breeze normally gave me an opportunity to come up from below the waters and gasp a breath of air. However, I decided to allow the stress to overpower me – I let my mind stay stuck on the things that troubled me most. Swimming up became too exhausting.
After a few moments of resting at the bottom of the river, the currents dragged my body up, forcing me to satisfy my lungs and pushing me back into reality. I arrived early to my English classroom. I was the first one there. Being in class and learning was one of the few aspects I life I could truly count on. Having set times during which I was able to absorb knowledge and develop practical skills that I would use in the future gave me a sense of structure that helped me regain control of my stress. It was as if these classes acted as a dam that slowed down the river I was entrapped in and gave me a chance to swim to the surface. I took one more moment to inhale the crisp air, filling my head with the smell of citrus blossoms, walked inside, and greeted my teacher.
“Hi. How are you doing?” She asked.
“I’m – I’m pretty okay,” I responded hesitantly.
“Are you sure you’re doing okay? If you ever need to talk to someone, I’m here,”
I thanked her and quickly sat down as the other students came rushing in. That entire class period flew by as my mind was entrapped by the whirlpool of my anxiety, unable to retain any information. I looked around, trying to start conversations with friends, but nothing substantial came out of my mouth. All I could feel was a sensation of spinning, inhibiting any sort of connection between my consciousness and reality. The forces of the water continuously dragged my body in circles, violently remind me of the worries implanted deep in my mind. No matter how hard my brain willed me to swim out of the vortex, the fatigue that dominated my body forced me to go with the currents of my stress, when, once again – bweee.
I stayed in my seat staring at the ground, declining offers to go out for lunch. Once the classroom was empty, I looked up to my teacher in hopes of not being a nuisance and asked if I could talk to her.
As soon as I started taking, everything rushed forward: the struggles of dealing with the tension in my family and the pain that constantly radiated from under my chest to the rest of my body. Soon, I felt myself slowing down while being dragged along the whitewater rapids. The more I talked things through with my teacher, the calmer the waters became. Eventually, I felt as if I was finally able to escape the violent waters of my stress and float into a serene pool of water, all thanks to her. Despite being robbed of valuable free time during her lunch break, she voluntarily fortified the pre-built dam and turned it into a structure that also provided emotional support by calming the rushing river I was trapped in. And she did this on top of all her non-paid school-related responsibilities.
The worst aspect of our educational system is that teacher salaries do not match up with the amount of work they are assigned. Many teachers put in multiple hours outside of the normal 40-hour work week. Outside of the regularly scheduled school day, teachers offer tutoring, plan lessons, grade papers, and, in my case, provide emotional support for students in need. Not only does their income fail to satisfy their workload, but it fails to match the level of importance of their job. Teachers are responsible for educating our youth and constructing a foundation for their future. They deserve to have their salaries raised to a level that respects their occupation.
While increasing teacher salary could potentially lead to an influx of applicants for teaching positions, and therefore a lower quality of teaching, it is crucial to realize that the educational system will not be accepting every person who comes in wishing to become a teacher. With a drastic increase in the number of people pursuing a career in education, schools will learn to be more selective in their hiring process. As a result, students will not only have a higher quality of education, but they will be given the opportunity to direct their raging rivers into the dams of their teachers, receiving the support needed to be successful in their careers and in their daily life.