The following guest editorial was submitted by a social worker in the Brookline Public School system. We have been permitted to publish this statement by its author only on the condition of anonymity.

For the first time in my life, I don’t want to come back to work. And I am middle-aged and have been working since I was 14. And the main reason is I don’t believe anyone in a position of power cares whether I live or die. I have plenty of colleagues I love and care about.

But there is not a supervisor, administrator, or School Committee member who knows me, understands what I really do, and thinks it matters.

I have given many years of my life to this public school system. I have sacrificed my marriage, my relationship with my child, and my health for this job.

I have 300 students on my counseling caseload. Some of them try to kill themselves, and I prevent it. Some of them are starving when they go to sleep, and I make sure they get fed. Some of them get beaten by their parents, and I make sure they are safe.

I don’t eat lunch, I don’t drink enough water that I need to pee, and then when I have to pee, I don’t have time. I give the best of myself to this job, literally sweat and tears, even, sometimes, blood.

My colleagues do the same. They have aging and dying parents, children of their own, heartbreak, trauma, oppression, and they come to work each day to strive and transform and suffer. And they do it every day, and they do it much of the night, and on weekends, and in the summer when they are off taking their lavish vacations. (Get it? Teachers are so lucky they get the WHOLE summer off? Yeah, try 4-6 weeks, if you are lucky, one of which you are fast asleep and getting over a cold because you are so exhausted, and one of which you spend sleeplessly prepping your classroom and buying $1,000 worth of supplies with your own money.) 

And yet I live in a country, and a state, and work in a community where that is not valued. It’s not just local-it’s American. People don’t really care that much about how we are raising the next generations of humans in this country. There, I said it.

We have abandoned religion. We worship at the altar of technology. We numb ourselves with all manner of substances, and we sit by while people less fortunate are actually murdered in their homes and on their streets. We don’t vote, not really. Not in the numbers it would take to shift us back to a place of decency, of modesty, of community-based on symbiosis and representation with parity. We take short-cuts ad nauseam. Target. Amazon. Netflix. Take-out.

We used to be hippies, and now we are boring. We used to stay up, and now we chill out. We don’t care about training and inspiring and educating children to feel good about themselves, and know-how to do a thing or two or learn about consent and how to put on a condom. {yes, we actually teach this.}

We don’t really care that kids are growing up more depressed and more anxious, with higher rates of eating disorders, addictions, and self-harm. If we did, we‘d do something. We are complacent. We are complicit. I am complicit. With all the self-aggrandizement above, I have failed many children. Many families. Many colleagues. Please don’t set me up to fail again. This work is hard enough. If we keep teaching and counseling and consoling, and saving people in a vacuum, at the margins, with insufficient resources, we, as a society, are doomed. 

If we keep under-funding and under-thinking the critical work that needs to be done to mobilize social change, level the playing field, grow strong, confident, capable children in this country, we are shipwrecked.