It has been a very emotional, terrifying, and sad past couple of days for me. For the past 48 hours, I've walked around almost in a comatose state. I've been running the motions, watching the world move around me, and have kept that "happy face" imprinted on me. Everyone around me has seen a normal, cheerful (I guess) me...while on the inside everything around me has been nothing but a blur running in slow motion creating a low humming sound that has been almost deafening.
On Wednesday, I told you all about the Love & Logic training I attended. It was a good training, one that gave me some great information to use... but after the past couple of days that I've had, there was one statement made on that day that I absolutely REFUSE to listen to.
"At the end of the day, you have to remember that you just can't save them all."
And that sentence was made in reference to troubled kids. Kids that have behavioral issues or trauma issues or attention issues. Those kids that come from backgrounds that have history of abuse, neglect, lack of parental support, or just from a home where basic needs just aren't being met and all the child cares about is if there will be enough food to eat or enough blankets to keep them warm.
Unfortunately, ALL of those issues are very apparent and prominent in the field I work in and even more so in the town where I teach.
But, being in that environment, around kids with those issues, and seeing and hearing the backgrounds of some of the kids I work with has made me realize one very important thing about myself.
I may not be able to save them all, but that doesn't mean I won't EVER stop trying.
You see, the situations that have unfolded in my life over the past 48 hours have made me apparent to one important thing I've learned about myself. I absolutely, 150% believe that I was put on this earth to care for children. Not just care for but nurture, support, be a refuge for, and a provider for the kids that I work with. It's engrained in to my blood to just want to make a difference in the lives of my kiddos, to somehow help them rise above the struggles and the issues and the downright horrifying situations.
Absolutely NO child that ever walks through my classroom door will EVER be considered a "lost cause" or a child that just can't be helped. I may not be successful, I may not be able to give that child the ability to deal with or cope with their situations... but what I can do is let them know that I am not going to give up, I'll keep pushing them, pushing myself, and be front and center ANYTIME that they need me.
Even if the only thing I can do is provide a safe haven for 8 hours a day, where they can take their minds of their situations for a short time, I'm OK with that. I may not be able to swoop in and make all the bad disappear from their lives... but I CAN make it disappear for as long as they are in the confinement of my classroom.
I will confront their troubles right along with them. Standing strong on their side. Accepting their issues, and guiding them with situations that helps them understand that while they are in my care, they will get all the love, support, and guidance I give my own biological children. Because, you see, for those 8 hours a day, I don't have 3 children of my own... I have 25 of them.
I can only imagine that going through what I've gone through the past couple of days is somewhat comparable to what some of my kiddos live with day in and day out. A comatose state. Just running the motions. Not really aware or even caring what's going on around them... but just putting on that "happy face" so nobody knows about the pain that's reeling around on the inside.
And my issue is a minor inconvenience compared to some of the horrors that plague some children.
But, as a person that has love and support at home, all of my basic needs met, no abuse or neglect happening to me... I can only imagine that what I've felt is a tiny portion of some of the burden some of my kids carry around on their shoulders.
I may not be able to save them all, but can't I at least take some of that burden away for a few hours a day? Can I not help them be OK with taking off some of the burden and handing it to someone else so that for 8 hours a day they can be a kid, enjoy themselves, and feel safe for just a little while? Can I not confront them, push them, and challenge them to want to rise above their issues in order to break the cycle and WANT a better life for themselves one day?
In my classroom, my kids have grown to understand my motto: NO EXCUSES!
That's the mentality I live by, and enforce in all aspects of what I do. It goes from being as simple as no excuses for not turning in an assignment, to no excuses for being mean to people, to no excuses for giving up, and no excuses for not trying.
And the kids that I challenge the most are the kids that really do have valid excuses. But, if I can get them to adopt a mentality of "no excuses", then there really isn't ANY excuses. If they are able to rise above their challenges, problem solve to prevent excuses, and just care enough so that they will at least try... I've achieved a major accomplishment.
Some kids are very aware of the struggles that are facing them. They have almost engrained it within themselves that they aren't worthy for someone to care enough about whether or not they do their homework, or show up for school, or try a few math problems that they absolutely don't think they can do. They don't understand why I care so much... nobody else does. They've been led down a path where their struggles have been a crutch for them to lean on, depend on, and convince them that it's just not worth the time or hassle.
Guess what? I absolutely DO care, and absolutely REFUSE to continue the cycle of letting them slip under the radar, or let them skate by because what's happening at home is far more important than what I'm offering up in my classroom.
Some of my kiddos just aren't used to the kind of force and resistance I show them. They are used to not doing an assignment and just taking the zero. Big whoop. They got an F. Who cares? They are used to not coming to school if they don't want to, nobody is going to notice, nobody is going to care. They are used to being mean to others and knowing that they'll end up in the principal's office with maybe a paddling or suspension, and they can just go right back to doing it the next day because they know the routine and if that's the only attention they can get... that's OK with them.
But not in my classroom.
If they don't do an assignment, I'm going to be on their case... pushing them, hounding them almost until I find out why the assignment wasn't done. Most of the time, it's the "who cares?" attitude, some of the time it's because they just don't have a clue what to do and don't see any point in trying. So, I have to make them realize that I CARE. It's important to ME that they do well. I am noticing and even if they aren't that bothered by their grades, I am...and failure is not an option. I will help them, if needed, I will guide them until they are comfortable, I will praise them when they make the slightest of successes... because that's pretty foreign to them, and when they realize that at least one person cares if they succeed, it's enough to keep them motivated.
If they don't come to school, I notice. I am hounding the assistant principal to call their house, speak to their parents, and even drive to their house to pick them up. Because they have to understand that I want them there. I want them to not miss out on what's going on in the classroom. That I think they are important enough to worry about, and those hounding phone calls and follow up when they finally return to school are my ways of telling them that SOMEONE cares and notices when they are gone.
If one of my kids is mean, there's no cycle of visit to the principal's office for them. They are getting me, in their face, wanting to know what's going on inside that's causing them to feel like they have to be mean to someone. They're not going to get yelled at or immediate punishment... I'm going to TALK to them, problem solve with them, guide them through figuring out what it is INSIDE of them that's causing them to want to cause hurt to someone else.
So, there's not a part of me that can accept that I can't save all the kids that step in to my room. I can accept that I won't make all the bad disappear. I can accept that I won't succeed in helping them do better in school or even want to do better in school.
But, not for one second will I EVER accept that I can't at least try. Every single child that I ever come in to contact with is at least deserving of that. Someone that will try.
I can accept my own failures....as long as I know that I've done everything in my power to succeed.
The minute I look at a child and just throw my hands in the air and accept that they can't be helped, and that it's not worth my time to try.... my time in the classroom will be over.
And, I don't see that happening ANY time. Ever.