It’s late. I’m sitting up in my husband’s office (to use the nicer computer!) unable to sleep because my brain has been nonstop nagging at me for the past 36 hours or so. While this post might seem useless and I’m not sure where it’s even headed to begin with, I’m going with the idea that if I don’t write right now, I will not sleep well tonight and may possibly ruin my entire weekend. Not guaranteeing this will fix anything, but I sure hope to try. Prayer and reflection just hasn’t been doing it for this one…
You see, I am an educator. Anyone who follows this blog should know this. You should also know that I am an extremely emotional person. What may not be so clear is how seriously I take my role in my career as a caregiver. I don’t mean to say that I baby all the kids and make them feel 100% at home (though sometimes I wish this latter were true). What I mean instead is that my heart goes out to each of my kids in their times of need. When something horrible happens in their life, or even when something great does. I hate making my life more stressful because of my emotions, but I refuse to be a teacher who could easily be replaced by a robot.
So here’s the thing. I need to write about a situation that happened to me yesterday. Though it’s been an ongoing saga for many people around me, I just happened to find out yesterday. What I found out is basically that a young person in my care last year was going through a rather difficult time. Though I noticed change in their behavior, I honestly thought it was usual growing pains of a teenager. I never said a word to anyone. I never thought anything of it really. I cannot say I wasn’t concerned, but the concern was overshadowed by my other duties, by my other students, and by so many other parts of life that hit you when you least expect it. But here’s the thing; I cannot continue to teach right now in the state that I am in. I cannot imagine starting school with new kids on Monday and wondering which ones I might be “overlooking” this time, as unintentional as my actions may have been last year.
While I’m struggling with so much here internally, all I really know is that I feel the need to apologize. To the student, to the parents, to anyone else who was carrying this knowledge and felt like they were trying to help alone. Because, especially as teachers, the more we pull together for a cause, the more effective we can be.
To the child:
I want to apologize for having mistaken your changed behaviors for normal changes that happen while a young person is growing and finding their way into adulthood. I want you to know that I never meant to overlook you in any way. While it may not have seemed as though I did from your perspective, I feel like I let you down. Please know that you have taught me a lesson that I have never experienced before; that keeping my eyes open to every student at all times is vital to the health and safety of all my students.
Thank you for also reminding me that just because you don’t see someone else’s struggles doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I spent so much time trying to build up myself and others through difficult situations last spring… but I never totally considered all you must have been going through. I clearly didn’t see it, didn’t realize.
To you, I hope the biggest and brightest future. Because even though you might not feel like you deserve it all the time, you honestly do. Never forget that you are a unique and amazing person. Don’t ever let a soul take that away from you no matter what.
While I’m at it, I might as well throw this out too. You will probably never read this letter, and yet I need to say that I went through some horrible things as a young person myself. Though I cannot compare my life to your own, I can say that it does get better. And I’m not using that statement as a cliche. One day you will find out that even though these circumstances have worked out for the worst in many ways, one day you will realize how strong and independent struggles in life make you. I hope you realize it sooner rather than later.
To everyone else who did know about all of this:
I wish you had told me. I wish just one person had spoken up and told me that one of my kids were in trouble, were having trouble outside of school. I wish I knew that I could have at least attempted to help be a source of comfort. Knowing me, I never would have said a word to the student myself, but I would have worked doubly hard to ensure that my classroom was a safe environment from bullying and the terrors of any horrible reality that was occurring in any of my students’ lives. If only I had known then rather than now, at a time when I will never teach the student again. While I’m sure there will be others who need my support and guidance just as much, missing even this one opportunity to make a difference in any small way is breaking my heart.
That’s it for now. Not sure I feel any better, not sure this cryptic post will even mean anything to anyone else. Just needed to write it… Just hoping maybe one teacher will read and make an effort to be more aware of ALL of their students and ANY change in behavior, no matter how small. I know that this year my goal is going to be just that. To pay more attention. To make my classroom a safe haven for any child going through any negative situation. In the meantime, I’m off to write more specifically about this in my paper journal. My mind just isn’t settled yet…