This past week, while on Spring Break, I had a wonderful and relaxing time with dear friends in beautiful sunny Cabo San Jose and Cabo San Lucas. We went camel riding, where I was kissed by a camel (something checked off of my bucket list that I didn’t even realize was on my bucket list), we went whale watching, we ate great Mexican food, we walked along and laid on the beach, and we enjoyed one another’s company. We took a sunset cruise during which we left behind a little bit of my sweetheart to be a pirate in the Sea of Cortez. This past week there was much laughter along with some tears. As we celebrated my leaving the 40s and entering the 50s this summer, we toasted with a bottle of 49 year-old wine to mark the new decade, and formally welcomed the new chapter in the story of my life and the new path down which I will be walking. I am filled with excitement and peace to think of where I will go.
Upon returning back to my classroom, I couldn’t help but be filled with sympathy, empathy and sadness as I began to hear the sad stories and broken hearts of so any of my students and their Spring Break. The first day back, within 45 seconds of the school day beginning, Ginger was in tears yelling at Otis, throwing everything from her desk onto the floor, and shoving her desk askew. I immediately wrapped my arms around her and took her to the spare room next door. I spent all of first period hugging, holding, touching and listening to many students as they told me about their breaks. All day, the students needed to be assured how much I missed them and how I was so happy to be back with them. A few of them needed to hear that I am going to be here every day for the rest of the school year. By now, it has settled down a little in the classroom, but holidays are very difficult emotionally, mentally, and physically for many of our students.
When I first started teaching, I didn’t realize just how stressful holidays were to my students and how anxious many of them become. Their routines are messed up. For many, their 7-hours-per-day-5-days-per-week consistent safety net is gone; they don’t realize it is only temporarily suspended. During the break, they may have had to be around people with whom they don’t feel safe. They may have had to be all by themselves all day long. They may have been told something big would happen while on vacation, only to be disappointed, again.
Many of my students did not have a good break. One didn’t have enough food for most of the holiday and told me with great excitement that his mom’s food card finally came in on Saturday and they had a fridge full of food for the first time in about eighteen months. Another one had the internet and cable turned off over the break because his parents didn’t have the money to pay the bill. One said she didn’t get anything for Easter because there wasn’t enough money and she didn’t even get to color eggs. One was hoping to see his older sibling from another state, but it didn’t work out. Another was supposed to visit his parent in prison, but it didn’t work out either.
Whether it was coloring Easter eggs, or visiting a parent in prison, these were huge, and very real, heartbreaks for these kids. I believe it is our job to recognize this and then to provide a safe haven for them. It is critical that these kids know it is okay for them to fall apart and break down and that someone will be there to catch them and help to put them back together. It is essential that they understand that because of what they are learning from the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System, they already have some of the tools to get through these difficult times and, ultimately, they will be stronger on the other side of whatever heartbreaks or adversities they encounter.
Our jobs are enormous, our responsibility is great.
Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled week,
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