Sometimes, I put my head on my desk for a few moments after school and just think.
I think of the children I have seen.
Those who are so angry that they can’t focus because they have been couch-surfing at friends’ homes each evening. Those who have the same hoodie on each day of the week, for whatever reason.
The child who I once taught who now works for NASA, or a farming co-op, or as an EMT. And the pupil with an intellectual disability who was still able to complete the #PBL summative assessment–the playing of a melody after creating a PVC wind instrument for our unit on sound wave properties.
But my mind wanders. I wonder why some administrators expect us to rubber stamp decisions they have already made. And I am grateful for the ones who took time to listen to me when I outlined a class strategy based on systems thinking.
Checking my email, there’s a note of gratitude from a parent who just wants the best for his child. Armed with research, he went to speak to a counselor, who listened carefully. That’s a huge change, he says, from the usual pattern of ego that he has found in schools.
Curiously, I find myself thinking about who the go-to people are in my current school. Is it the teachers, or the lunch cooks, or the janitors…or someone else? Who takes the time to listen to the body language of these children, and encourages them to use their words to express their needs?
In this crazy, mixed up world, it seems to me that more than standards, we only have time to teach what is important. Caring for one another. Trying again when we fail. The 4Cs (communication, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration). Sure, understanding content is important, but in a connected world, why do we memorize so much that we will unlearn just weeks or months later.
As I write this, the internet waves are filled with tributes to the latest two celebrities who have tragically taken their own lives. Reach out, say some of the people. Don’t give in to depression. But wait, say others. We have to reach in to the core of those who are demoralized and lift them up.
No one knows this better than teachers, who each and every day have an opportunity to make a difference to the kid in the back seat. The one who doesn’t belong to any one group, and the one that does. Those whose skin color or sexual orientation or religion can make them outcasts in the building if they don’t have a strong advocate. Those who have extremely high expectations for self and those who don’t believe in the goodness and wholeness of adults in their lives. At-risk? What a misnomer for the concoction some of them have in their lives.
So sometimes, when my head is on that desk, I feel tears leaking out of the corner of my ducts and I wonder why the waterworks flow. Is it for me, who sometimes feels overwhelmed by the enormity of my students needs? It is for the archaic systems that have to change and yet react with so much reticence? Or is it for those kiddos who will go home, now that the bell has rung, and have to deal with horrible situations and a government that doesn’t seem to care as long as there are tax cuts for the rich?
I don’t know, I think. Perhaps that reflection is for all of us. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we don’t. But in the moments of stress, we try, and we gather, and we hope to make a difference.