I am currently taking a B.S. Master’s class on teacher reflections. Today, our teacher said we needed to think of the most disturving experience in our history of teaching. He told us not to share it with anyone–that reflections like this are highly personal. So like all my other personal and most private thoughts, I figure that this is a good place to defy his wishes.
Where do I begin? Six years of teaching have given me experience after experience that has “kept me up at night thinking of what I should have done differently” (the directions…).
1. There was that time my first year when my student held scissors to his chest and a pencil to his neck. He told me that he just wanted to die. He was, of course, heart-broken at the tender age of 10. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how broken he truly was. His home-life was in shambles, his step-mother resented him and treated him differently than the other students. He followed up this event with a shoestring around his neck… and mandatory time being evaluated. He is the student I remember the most. The student that told me, “Miss Blakley, you saved me in there,” when he returned from the hospital. I think of him constantly, and have called him to check on him. Maybe someday I will find him on Facebook.
Maybe I should have kept in better contact with him. Maybe I should have fought for him. Maybe I should have done more to focus on his needs, and not the angry young man a couple seats over…
2. There was another student that same year. One that my mom suspected had been sexually abused based on her behaviors. She wasn’t a behavior problem. She wasn’t an academic problem. She was ignored.
What if I had asked her more about her home-life? What if I had reached out to her family?
3. Student three made me promise not to tell anyone that her family was living in a van. I didn’t. She was well behaved. She was poor. She was well-loved. She came to school clean each day.
What if I had thought to check on her family? What if they didn’t have enough to eat? I mean, after all, they were living in a van!
Ahh… I think of these kids often. But they aren’t alone.
4. This kid was a big kid–bigger than all the others. The other students, their parents were scared of him–wary perhaps is a better word. He thundered around the classroom, because he was too big to move quietly. He threw his body around like every other seven year old–only he was the size of a ten year old. He didn’t know how to play with other students, so I began playing with him. I love this kid–I would have taken him home with me. Alas, he did actually have a mama who cared–at least the best way she knew how. This kid, he was too dumb to follow along–and too smart to qualify for services. He was flying in the dead zone academically.
What if I had pushed harder against the system for him? What if I had coached his mom on her rights to request testing for her son–after the school determined that he didn’t need it? What if I had kept in contact with him–given him my email address to keep finding me incase he needed me?
5. This kid was special. She was sweet as could be–but suffered from physical issues as well as the issues that come when your parents refuse to admit that your kid can make mistakes. Her mom made me nervous–there’s no other way to put that. And she’s the ONE kid that I happened to screw up her test scores. Convenient. Once, I accidentally hit her in the eye when I turned around in the hallway. Nice. Totally an accident. That kept me up at night.
Here in Mexico, I think about the academic needs of my kids more than their social and emotional needs. It must have something to do with homes that have both parents, food that is on the table, and money that pays for quality education. Sigh. Thanks, teacher. Thanks for dragging up my worries with my precious babies throughout the years. That will for SURE keep me up tonight.