Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teachers don't just teach

I had a fourth grader walk into my classroom today, and she wasn't acting herself.  She came in and sat down at her desk, which was highly unusual.  I was sitting and putting some things away, so I stopped what I was doing and said, "J, are you okay?  You don't seem like yourself."  And then I asked, "Would you come help me put these things away?"

That's what got her.  She didn't want to talk, but she is always willing to help.  She came over, and instead of doing exactly what I asked, she plopped her little body right next to mine on the floor and said, tears streaming down her face, "We had to call the ambulance last night."  She proceeded to tell me the story of what had happened with her grandmother and I knew that our day was going to be a different day from what was planned.  That was okay, because today she didn't need my reading and writing lessons.  Today she needed someone that she loved to reassure her, and she needed someone that loved her to hug her and let her cry if she needed to.

When it came to writing, and she just couldn't think of a single thing to write about for the end of year writing prompt, and she said her tummy hurt, I told her to go get a drink of water and come back to me.  I knew this wasn't the stomach bug that was going around, this was J worrying about the people that she loves at home and at the hospital.  She came right back, and I told her that instead of writing the prompt that I wanted her to write about what had happened.  She wrote a beautiful narrative about what had happened.  I asked her to write her feelings, and she wrote, "I feel sad, gloomy, and my stomach hurts because I just can't stop thinking about it."  My heart broke.

As parents, we know that sometimes we send our kids to school when it's all falling apart at home, and we just hope that there is someone at school to catch our kids.  My job as a teacher isn't just to teach the required knowledge and skills.  My job is to know these kids and stop to listen.  My job is to take care of their needs.  My job is to love them.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

When you think you're alone

Every one of us feels like we are alone as a parent.  We think our kids are alone in the way they feel, and we feel like we are the only ones fighting a particular battle.

I'm here to tell you that you aren't alone, but the longer you keep it inside, the worse it's going to feel.  As simple as sharing my child's weird tooth that was growing the wrong direction in her mouth.  I'd never heard of it, but as soon as I started talking about it, all of the sudden, everyone I knew had a kid with the same freakish tooth.  As soon as Olivia shared her anxiety, more peers shared their stories of strange fears and anxiety attacks, too.

Once we open ourselves up and share the fears and worries of parenting, we realize that we aren't alone, and that others have made it through the same struggles before us.  Hello, parent of a freshman in college, I know you know exactly how I'm feeling right now with my senior who is about to graduate - please tell me that we will all be okay.  I need to hear it.  Moms who are potty training?  You're going to get to the other side.  Sleepless nights with a newborn?  Temper tantrums?  I promise, you are going to be okay.

We tend to share when our kids are little.  We have play groups and mom's clubs and our network of mommies is strong.  As we all start to get involved in life and move and go to different schools, our network fades and we often forget that we are all still struggling.  Maybe our struggles are diverging - one friend struggles through autism, one through learning disabilities, ADHD, divorce or even death.  We find our network fading.  We begin to only post the shiny, happy pictures on Facebook, thinking that all the other people are living a perfect life, so we should pretend ours is too.

I'm here to tell you that it's time to share our struggles.  Sometimes sharing helps us, and sometimes it helps the person you shared with.  But we never know when someone opening up to us will be the safety net that we need to keep us from falling.