Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Every one of them is full of greatness."

photo courtesy morguefile.com
As teachers, we often have no idea what is going on at home.  The reason that a child puts his head down on his desk may be as simple as the fact that the child spent too much time playing videogames the night before, and not enough time actually sleeping.  Often, this is the case.  In fact, so much so that it is the go-to assumption.  Recently, however, there has been a bit of a shift in the minds of educators -- maybe, in part, by the desire to explain our own alleged shortcomings.

If it's true that the now more conscious awareness of our students' well-being is based upon the hours and hours of child abuse training that is now mandated, then that's great.  If it's because we are now looking for excuses as to why we haven't hit the target for student performance with our mandated SLO data, then, I guess, there is finally a worthwhile purpose for all this data, if it makes us more aware of the needs of those in the hallways and classrooms.
 


Those of us at the high school tend not to dwell as much as we should on the living conditions, because the kids do a pretty good job of hiding what's really going on in their lives.  The same is not the case for the little ones in the primary school, where teachers have an entire day to bond with their kids, who often demonstrate innocent honesty, shaking their classroom teachers to the core.

There is an excellent article flying around Facebook these days that shines a spotlight on this situation.  Alice Gomstyn shares a harsh reality story that is so raw that it makes you gulp, and appreciate kindergarten teachers even more than you already do.  I can't imagine a school where there is a need for the private stash of socks, warm clothing, and underwear is present at the classroom level.  (Our district maintains these amenities in the privacy of the school nurse's office.)

My district has a fairly high poverty rate compared to neighboring districts, but it is nowhere near the highest rates in the state.   The very fact that 40% of the kids in Pennsylvania public schools are classified as low income should be much more horrifying than society currently reflects. 

Recently, I saw a Facebook post by one of my students.  (Yes, I am friends with students -- don't judge.  I'm 53 years old, I filter what I post based upon my awareness of my audience, and, quite frankly, I learn a lot about them AND extend their learning when I am able to share articles, etc. with them.) 

The post was a public "Thank You" to a Good Samaritan who had dropped off a bag of groceries on the family's doorstep. 

I'm embarrassed to say that I had no idea that there was anything stressful in this kid's life.  There, on Facebook, was a grateful message for a gift of food.  Humbling, to say the least.  I started reflecting on what I knew about other students in our building.  Statistics tell us that nearly 11% of Americans have been diagnosed with cancer.  Their school-aged relatives are living the reality of chemo treatments and adjusted schedules for appointments, often with no one at school aware of the disruptions at home.  And that is just one of many debilitating diseases that could be influencing our kids' ability to stay focused.

So today, Sonya Romero-Smith is my hero, for reminding me that everyone has a story, and not all of them are sharing theirs.  If you didn't click on the article mentioned above, take the time to read it.  Here's the link again.

We owe it to ourselves, and our learners, to recognize that "Every one of them is full of greatness."
If only we can give them the opportunities they deserve.