Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Different Set of Letters Behind My Name

In preparation of TBA's International Blog Hop Day, I've been writing posts for each of the day's themes.

I have saved this one for last, if I can even finish it.

This will be the most difficult post I've ever written!
{It was.  I came back to it several times and almost didn't publish and link up, but some part of me says to go with it. it goes!}

Maybe it's just time to get it off my chest and let the rest of you know what it been like to be me for the last 7 months.

My Mama passed away after a 37-year battle with numerous health problems on December 29, 2010.

I had some time left over Christmas Break to try to pull myself together and get back to work.  Needless to say, I wasn't as ready as I thought I was and I broke down in front of my students more than once over the next few weeks.

Fast-forward 53-1/2 weeks to January 8, 2012.

That night, I got a phone call from my brother that something terrible had happened at my Daddy's house, about 45 minutes away.  I couldn't really make out what he was saying, but I knew it wasn't good!

After standing out in the rain in front of Daddy's house all night...crime scene tape, flashing lights, people, questions, shock...

There had been 2 people and a gun and it ended badly for everyone.

What I witnessed in the wee hours of the morning, after we were finally allowed inside, is forever etched in my mind.  It will never, never go away.

I took a little over a week off work and tried to get back to 'normal' as best as I could.

It was hard.  My students wanted to know what happened to Daddy.  I couldn't tell them.  They were so sweet and concerned, but I couldn't talk about it.

I tried to keep plugging away, but nothing was right.  I couldn't sleep.  When I did fall asleep, I was seeing a movie over and over again that my mind had recreated from the events of that night.  I was having flashbacks during the day.  I felt lost in my own classroom...and in my own house.

I finally reached my breaking point a month after Daddy's death.  It was his birthday and exactly 4 weeks later.  

I couldn't go to work.  I felt all wrong and awful.

After seeing my family doctor, I took a 3-week leave-of-absense and began therapy.

I was diagnosed with PTSD and Moderate Panic Attacks.  All of these seemed to exacerbate my OCD, which I was always able to control fairly well up until this point.

I felt like an emotional train wreck and a failure as a person because I was unable to handle the situation thrown at me.

Eventually, I did make some improvements and headed back to my classroom...and my 7th grade students.

They were so full of concern and questions that I couldn't just ignore them and leave them hanging.

It took every ounce of courage I had, but I talked to my students, gave them a watered-down version of events, and even shared that I was seeing a therapist.  

I had been so afraid to approach the whole topic with them, but talking to my students felt like the right thing to do and I felt pounds of worry fall away.  

I wanted my students to know that even as adults, we face difficult times and need to talk to others for help sometimes.

I saw lots of heads nodding up and down.  I saw a few tears.

More importantly, I could feel a connection with several students who had gone through traumatic situations of their own last year.  They knew I 'got it!'  They didn't have to feel ashamed about what life had thrown at them.

I still see my therapist and I will never be 'cured.'  Some days are still very hard, but I know if I had not taken the steps I did with my students, I wouldn't have made it as far as I have today!  I needed to step up to the plate and see a positive example for them about dealing with adversity and trying your best to overcome it.

Losing both my parents in less than 54-weeks time for devastating and I got some new letters to go behind my name, but I refuse to let those letters define me as a person, as a wife and mother, or as a teacher.

I sincerely hope I haven't upset you too much, depressed you, or scared you off.  I'm not asking for pity or attention.  Maybe someone else needed to hear my story today since I felt such a need to tell it.

In the end, remember this...

If you need a reminder, you can download this for free from Google Docs.  Just click on the image above.

To check out other themes in TBAs International Blog-Hopping Day, click on the image below.

To see more posts about Teaching with Courage, click on this image.

{I'm not sure my usual 'Enjoy :)' is appropriate here, so I'll go with this...}

Making It {and still managing to smile},


  1. God bless you. I know what you went through will bless others. Thanks for sharing:)

    History Teacher in West Africa

  2. Michelle,

    Your courage to get out of bed everyday will make a difference in the lives of those you teach, as well as, those you touch in the other areas of your life. Thank you for your transparency! You are stronger than you think you are! Praying for you!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Michelle. It truly touched my heart - you are a true example of strength & courage.

    Miss V's Busy Bees

  4. Oh my... You shared a part of yourself to help us all! Bless you!

  5. WOW. Michelle. Thank you for your honesty and the COURAGE that went into sharing this experience. I am sure that your story will provide strength for someone who is trying to endure in the face of tragedy.

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  6. Thank you for sharing. It took courage to share that. I imagine it took a lot of strength to write it as well. As I read it, I remembered how hard it was every time a student asked me about my father or mother's deaths. Going to work gave me the chance to try to pull myself together and focus on something other than loss. When they would ask, it was reality would hit me in the chest. Thank you for opening up and sharing how much courage it takes to be a teacher and human at the same time.

    Surfing to Success

  7. I've just found your blog, and already I know I would love to teach with you on my team. Your courage, and strength to take this to work with you is remarkable. And if your workplace is anything like my workplace, the students care about you much more than most of the teachers do. These students feel this love and respect you have for them, and reciprocate in full. I'll be a fan of yours from now on..... happy rest of summer

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I can't even imagine going through all of this. Before reading this I had been feeling a bit lousy, besides teaching middle school, I work at a summer camp to make ends meet, which they aren't right now. Thanks you for sharing and making me feel that we are all stronger than we know, you most certainly are.
    Pam Morganelli

  9. Michelle,
    I read this earlier today and have been thinking of you all day. Prayers to you. I'm so proud of your courage to move forward and to show your students that we are all human. Sometimes we hurt.

    Fun in Room 4B

  10. Talk about courage and role model!

    Wendy P

  11. Wow, you are so courageous! Thanks for sharing that story...I cannot imagine how you must have felt. What an inspiration you must have been to your students. I am sure they look up to you so much. Love your blog, by the way. I am your newest follower. Maybe you will stop by my student teaching blog sometime?

  12. Thank you for sharing your courageous story. I admire you and your story is an inspiration. I love your blog and look to it to help me teach middle school next year on a regular basis. Thank you.
    First Class Teacher

  13. You are an inspiration to me. Thank you.

    Lea Ann

  14. So I was just spending my Sunday being inspired by teachers like you with all these creative ideas online. And I came across this have had a really hard year. I can't imagine. I am sure there must be many days where something has triggered a memory of one of your parents and you feel the sadness all over again.

    And even through all of this you still share and inspire others. You are amazing!!

    You will be in my prayers this week. God knows you have had a hard year.

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