By: Adam Sutton
“Today, Ms. Fiore is going to be with you guys. Be on your best behavior, like always, since she has some stuff that’s good for you forever. It will provide you with guidance.” Mrs. George pauses. Laughs to herself and continues, “Guidance. Ha! Get it? Guidance. She’s a Guidance Counselor.” The students smirk at her silliness but don’t laugh. “Well anyways, Ms. Fiore take it away,” says Mrs. George.
A handful of claps greet Ms. Fiore as she starts by asking, “How does school make you feel?”
Crickets. No one moves. No hands get raised. It’s as if Ms. Fiore has turned into a ferocious predator and the students are helpless prey. No one wants to answer this question. Slowly Mandy, who sits in the front, raises her hand. “Yes, Mandy. What do you think?”
“School is mostly stressful,” she says. With that, handfuls of hands pierce the air.
“I agree the stress is rough. I worry about tests a lot.”
“My parents make school so stressful too. It’s like I can never do enough school work,” Mariah adds.
“And, the teachers—some of them are cool—but all of them seem in a hurry. Like they have too much to do,” Marian continues.
“It’s not even school for me. It’s trying to be social. I like to participate in class, but I always worry afterwards if I said something dumb or silly or embarrassing. Sometimes it keeps me up at night,” Claire says.
“Jill, I couldn’t believe it. I have Ms. Fiore in teaching a guidance lesson today. It’s crazy!” Mrs. George announces to her lunch companion.
“The kids are off the chains I bet.”
“No. They are great actually. She still has 2 classes left, but I can’t believe how honest the kids have been. She’s got them talking about stress and how they deal with it. So many of them see school as this huge stress ball. From the best to the worst students, they all see this place as a stressor. It makes me sad,” Mrs. George laments.
“Well, if they studied a little more and talked a little less, it’d probably help,” Jill opines.
“Yes, some of it is poor planning, but a lot of it isn’t. They also talked about how much stuff they’ve got going on: clubs after school, practices in the evening, parents putting pressure on them, teachers assigning lots of work, a lack of time during the day to relax, not enough time to think about their work, trying to manage their social, extracurricular and academic lives,” she pauses to consider her next statement. “She asked them how they deal with their stress. What do you think the most popular answer has been?”
“Play video games,” Jill snaps without hesitation.
“Good guess. Probably number 2 on the list. Cry. I stood up when Ashley in 1st period said that because I was sure a dozen kids were going to tease her. Not one kid has been teased for saying ‘Cry’ today.”
“Not one. I kid you not. 1st period I didn’t expect it, but by 3rd period, I was watching how the other kids responded. There were easily a dozen heads bobbing up and down when it was said. Not just girls either. Bryce in period 3.”
Jill’s surprise is clearly apparent as she says, “Bryce? He’s like the most confident, mature, grown-up 8th grader in the whole school! Most of the time I think that kid’s put together better than me!”
“Ms. George, thanks for having me in today. I thought it went well. How about you?” Ms. Friore asks.
“I hate my job,” Mrs. George blurts out.
“What?” Ms. Fiore says raising her eyebrows with an uneasy chuckle.
“I hate it,” tears welling in her eyes she carries on, “everything the kids said today is true. I literally hate this place. I’m stressed every minute I’m here. I show up stressed. I leave stressed. I never stop moving. There’s always more work than minutes in the day. I get home and snap at my husband. I snap at my kids. God, I can’t even lay in bed with my husband without immediately falling asleep. Everyday, I put a big smile on, get excited about whatever the lesson is, work to build relationships with the kids, and it still sucks.” Tears pouring down her face all she can do is repeat herself, “This sucks.”