I know I haven’t contributed for a while. I am working on getting back to it. The following is something I needed to write to get off my chest. It is the reality of the education world I am in right now.
How do you teach a child to read when:
- They haven’t eaten because their family can’t afford food?
- The heat has been turned off in their house and they couldn’t sleep because it was too cold?
- You are informed you will be seeing a father you have never met over a child support issue?
- You are being repeatedly bullied and see no way out and are considering suicide?
- They are in charge of a younger sibling during the night because the parent is working a 3rd shift to make ends meet?
- The gut-wrenching pain of a parents death is still too new to process?
- You are struggling with your sexual identity and are afraid of who will find out?
- A long-time friend was just killed because he crossed the wrong gang?
- Depression has set in and they have begun the cycle of self-harm and are scared of continuing?
- All they have is tears because their father is beating them and they are afraid to go home?
- The nightmares of bombs going off or walking past dead bodies on the way to school still haunt their dreams and they still fear for their family in their home country?
You don’t. You show them some grace and hope you can create a space in your room where they can come and feel safe. Maybe next time, they come, they will be ready. But even if they aren’t they might feel safe for a class period. You also believe in them. They need someone who believes in them when they have no belief in themselves.
Then you wonder, what are my other students going through and I don’t even know it? NEVER stop getting to know your students.
These are all personal stories I have heard from my students in the last few years. Our relationships with our students are paramount! Our relationships can help or hinder our students. We must remember traditional ways of dealing with students will not work with students who have bigger needs in their lives than getting good grades. When we recognize that, we can start changing our education system that supports our students who live in a broken world.
The last few years, I have spent time awake at night because of my student’s struggles, and have even shed a few tears. I suspect that will not go away. I am charged with helping them to become better readers, but there are times when my best hope is to first help them become a little less broken.