Saturday, September 19, 2015

little hearts, big burdens

Being a teacher really touches your heart and soul. It's like this little glimpse of the world when you have children in your class that come from all sorts of different families. I will never forget when I taught summer camp during college and a parent came up to me so upset that his sons were being made fun of for being Asian. I tossed and turned that whole night wondering 1) what I should do and 2) how hate invades little hearts at all. I'd like to say this was the last time I was confronted with the harsh realities of the world making their way into the peaceful world of an elementary classroom. But the truth is I've heard stories from the mouths of my students of parents fighting, job loss, horrific divorces and bitter custody battles, hunger, and even one of my 1st graders who told me, "I'm afraid of getting kidnapped. You know there's rapists out there, teacher." She was 6. Not long ago I was approached by another parent whose child had not been made fun of but was so worried about eating food from his culture at lunch that he just wasn't eating lunch at all and confessed to me tearfully that he "didn't feel American." Oh boy. Dr. Phil says all the time, "Do not ask children to deal with adult issues." I agree. But so many of these heavy burdens children carry come from a deep place of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that invade their families so naturally they weave their way into the hearts of children. On days when I fret that my students will never know the difference between a noun and an adjective or that the addition sentence stays the same whether it's written up and down or side to side, I force myself to remember that I do not know all of what's behind the faces of my students. I won't let them off easy or keep them from holding themselves to a high standard but the fact is simple, some children at 6 and 7 are dealing with more than I have ever been asked to deal with. I too easily forget that. I hope and pray that when children do have to deal with adult issues that it doesn't scar their hearts and that I am graced with the right responses and that maybe, just maybe, from 8:00 to 3:00 each day they can be a child. A silly, smart, playful, goofy child. As it should be.

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