“And I wanted to scream at every teacher, “Why are you making me do this stupid busywork while my brother’s white blood cell count is so low?” (Drums Girls and Dangerous Pie, pg. 132)
Unfortunately, this is the same sentiment being shared by numerous children in our classrooms and under our care. Maybe they aren’t worried about a sick brother at home; but many of them ARE worried about whether or not they will have dinner that night, whether or not their Mom or Dad will come home, whether they will be able to escape the misplaced anger from a parent or how they can continue to hide the evidence of a home that is falling apart. Many of them come to school with baggage so heavy that their little minds can only try to reconcile the basic levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs let alone concentrate on busywork thats importance pales in comparison to all that is running through their head. They are so consumed by the hunger, the fear, the mistrust, and the pain, that they can’t begin to focus on learning about story structure when their own life story is crumbling apart.
These kids are often labeled as defiant, lazy, struggling learners, kids who don’t give a damn… but in reality, their mind is so consumed with the world outside the school’s walls, little else can be let in. Their eyes have seen images many adults will never experience and their ears processed words that they don’t even comprehend the meaning of. They know too much at too young of an age.
How do I know this? Because I used to be one of those kids.
What if we, as teachers, took the time to reach out to the quiet ones, the loners, the kids who try to melt into the background? What if we tried to understand, to listen and hear what they are saying without them having to speak a word? What if we became that strength for them; the strength that they are so desperately in need of? What if we took the time to show them love and kindness and compassion?
It can make a monumental, lifelong impression. That is what can happen. It can change a child’s path; help them believe in themselves, give them a purpose, a reason to persevere and to give it their all. It can help them begin to believe in themselves and realize that maybe, just maybe, they can overcome.
How do I know this? Because I was once that child; the child on which a teacher decided to take a chance. I was that child which a teacher decided to reach out and listen to, even when nary a word escaped from my silent lips. I was that child which so easily could have been left behind but because of a perceptive teacher who heard my silent screams, I am here today.
I am no longer that child, but instead, today I am that teacher. I am that teacher listening for those silent screams and seeking out those who try to melt into oblivion. I am that teacher, cheering on and supporting even the most frustrating of students. I wish that I was never “that child” but because I was, and had a teacher see beyond my exterior, I now can be “that teacher” to somebody else.
(writing inspired by a writing challenge in which I grabbed the closest book, opened to a random page and stopped at the 7th sentence to use as my beginning line)