Each day brought new challenges. Sometimes the obstacles seemed too hard to overcome. The stresses of meeting the rising demands of teaching at the time, added to the weight that she carried on her shoulders of being the authority in that classroom. Not a day went by that she did not wonder if she was equipped, skilled, and talented enough to be great at what she had chosen as a career. Teaching children and molding the minds of a new generation; a challenge in which she believed she was ill prepared for.
She was a teacher who put her best foot forward each day in spite of the daily challenges in her own world, outside of the school building. After all, she was human too.
She left the classroom every afternoon and worked to be present in other areas of her life. She balanced it all, learning every step of the way the difficulties of navigating life with many responsibilities and being prepared for the work of educating children. But she managed to balanced it all and work endlessly to be a positive presence in every area of her life.
Her hope was that her positive spirit would manifest itself in the classroom full of societal missteps and the plight of disadvantaged communities. Each day, she was met with a gap in the road with little to no bridge. While she was not from their world, she had been blessed to empathize with their circumstances. She had not had their experiences, but found her overwhelming compassion to do more. She did not understand the dynamics of their lives, but accepted the challenge to grow into the channel the spirit of humanity to be the positive force that they needed in their lives.
As a teacher, she learned that through their toughness, they communicated their fears, anxious thoughts, and doubts. In their interactions with adults, they showed their lack of trust for people. In their relationships with their peers they displayed their willingness to fight at any time; a coping mechanism developed to survive. They did not believe what she believed and failed to see the optimism in every situation which was her mantra.
They were not privy to experiences that she had and were not always accepting of her attempts at changing their perception of the world. While they may have wanted to improve their character and respond differently to adverse situation, they did not. It took her a long while to realize that they simply did not know how. In spite of her efforts, it was a daily battle to remain in control of the day when they responded to every situation with a confrontation, carrying the negative emotional baggage on their backs. Many of them had taken on responsibilities of their world; even at their young age.
There were some mornings when he entered the classroom talkative and cooperative; generally happy to be at school. He was liked by many and had many friends. But there were also days when he entered the room and was clearly angry, bothered by something that took place before he even entered the classroom. At those times, he was quiet and withdrawn for the better part of the day. It was clear that he was processing something that had impacted his world. It was days like these when he fought her to be right about everything. He was defiant and disrespectful. Uncooperative and destructive. The whole day was turned upside down. On these days, she felt helpless, like she was failing as a teacher and as a partner in his connection to a bright future.
Over time, she realized that there is nothing like seeing into the world of her students. This is how she connected. She listed. She did not judge. She cared and it was evident. One day in particular, she learned of a fight between him and another male student. When asked, he told her that the other student said something about his mother. All of my efforts at dispelling the myths that lived inside of him and the internal struggle that he was having with himself failed. He was adamant about acting in the in defense of his mother by any means necessary… He refused to allow her name or character to be defamed by anyone. While empathizing with his feeling to respond to the other students comments, she wanted him to consider responding in a different way instead of with violence. To him, words were just as harmful as sticks and stones.
She sensed a certain responsibility that a child should not have. He shared that it was indeed his responsibility to take care of her. Period. She learned that his mother struggled with setbacks and consequences associated with their environment. This was the weight he carried. To him, showing his love for her was fighting. It made him angry to hear such negative words about his mother. After running out of words to say to calm him and get him to see her point, she told him this. Pray for his mother. She told him specifically to go home and get on his knees that night and pray for her to be better.
Her heart hurt for his tears and his unwavering love and admiration for the woman who birthed him. There was no judgement there; only the love that a son could have for his mother. The next day she returned with hope in her heart for better days for them all.
While she was, at that time, working to support him through that moment of struggle, there were other students in her class whose behaviors fluctuated as well. Some days they were all up and there were good times to be had and other days its was one, two, three or four of them that brought their emotional weight to school and struggled to keep it under control. This caused conflict both within and outside of the classroom.
The inconsistent behavior interactions made it difficult to manage peer to peer relationships let alone teaching the skills necessary to pass a state test. But on one particular day, a glimmer of light shone for the compassion that she had for her work. This lit a spark in her life that would change the course of her work.
If there was ever a time when she felt that she was doing the most good, it was on the day that he told that he had indeed done what she had told him to do. That morning, he did not say ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’. His words were simple, “I did what you told me to do.” He had went home and prayed for his mother. At that moment working to hold back her own emotions, she knew that the work she was doing was having an impact on the lives of her students.
That day was a good day for him. It seemed as if a weight had been lifted off. If only for a moment. From then on, she know exactly how to reach him.
That teacher was me. I never imagined that I could silence the cry of the hurt in the lives of my students. Their circumstances seemed far beyond what I had experienced and what I was capable of understanding and managing. But I realized that when you are in the right place doing what you are created to do, you will be able to access the skills needed to do the work. All I needed to do was just be willing. That was over 19 years ago. Since then, I have carried with me these experiences throughout my years of teaching. Every student needs to know that you care. As their teacher, you are a valuable part of their lifeline and the success that they dream of. You are the gateway for their future. It not just about knowledge and skill, it is about the heart and the spirit. That is how you will connect; nothing else will penetrate their world as much. Once they know that your compassion is genuine, they will work for you, they will learn from you, they will be your biggest example and your greatest accomplishment. Know your place in this field. You matter in this space.
©️ May 2020 Inspired Serenity by Kim Seymore