Crying At Work When Work Is a Room Full Of Teenagers

I was this close to simply calling it in. I needed to stay at home and getting through some of the things, to make sure I was taking care of myself.

What I really needed was a mental health day.

Instead I did the thing where in the morning I told myself:

OKAY. It's happening. Just go.

I wore black pants and a black sweater and black shoes because that's the level of coordination my brain could summon. I wore a big necklace to pretend that I tried.

I dropped the coffee maker and spilled mushy wet grounds all over the floor. The crash awoke my husband, and I shouted up the stairs, "It's fine! I'm sorry! Go back to sleep!" Just this had me fighting back tears.

I moved throughout the first few hours at school, hoping nothing would trigger a meltdown today. And hoping nobody could tell that any. little. thing. might put me right on the other side.

I tried to make my eyes smile, like Tyra taught me.

It's a big whopping performance, a few times a day, this gig. The audience walks in and you're on. The whole time, regardless of the lesson. You're the teacher. You're the grown-up.

Days like this one are rare for me, thankfully.
But still. I'm right on the edge of mental and emotional chaos at all moments. Something trivial will happen and boom, it'll be over.

For me it was, "What are we doing today?"

Tears. I just couldn't.

In front of the tough-kid 12th graders, who most days let me know: Ummyeahwe'regoodthanks, and now they all looked me while I stood there and lost it a little bit.

I vented-slash-apologized. I told them I was embarrassed but that I knew this was coming today. That I'm totally okay, big-picture-wise, I'm just wiped-out and a large series of small failures have culminated in this moment. This tiny pressure-explosion is, I'm sorry, happening now.

I owned it. I had to.
I said to them, I'd way rather reach this point in the privacy of my own bathroom, but hey. I guess our class is called Being Human, and some days, this is what that looks like.

Not optimal.

But. It's okay to not be okay.

Our health teacher shared that wisdom with me once, and it stuck.
It's okay to not be okay. I'm glad she's around to tell that to our students, too.

I'm awkwardly standing there. What now?

And they own it, too.
They all said something like: Dude, we so get that.
And: Here, do you want this brownie?

Also: Your waterproof eyeliner is great.

I got their eyes and ears. And a hug.

And after a pause and a deep breath and a lingering uncertainty.
One student said, I want to talk about this passage on page 147. At which point everyone opened up their books and discussed and discussed and forgave my minimal input.

And later, I saw multiple emails saying, Seriously, I feel like that basically every day.
And before lunch, some flowers:

And this pumpkin with my face drawn on it:

Pretty accurate.

It says a lot about a community when your most vulnerable self is met with support.
When at your worst, you feel totally safe.
When a room full of teenagers is the least intimidating space.

When everyone cares about, yes, but also cares for, one another.

When a day like this leaves me with gratitude.
Above all the other feelings.


  1. Your kids are awesome and you are awesome!!

  2. Infinite love. Thank you for this reflection. 🙏🏼

  3. Love this. I've been there, recently, and was amazed at the kids stepping up. There is something to be said for showing you are human!

  4. Kids are amazing when you are real with them.

  5. Lost it a few times in school this year, not in class but some kids saw me in the hallways on my way to the bathroom. Later, those kids asked me what happened. Instead of brushing it off, I decided to own it, too. I wanted to show them that even adults have tough times. I wanted to let them know that we all lose it sometimes and that it's OK. I told them that I was having a stressful day and I asked if they'd ever had one, too. They emphatically all said yes and there ensued a great, honest conversation of the stresses in our lives. It was a growing closer moment rather than an aloof moment. I'm glad I chose to own it and I'm glad you did, too.

  6. Yep, I get it. Posted recently on a similar subject. It's amazing to have support when you need it!