Friday, October 2, 2009

Which dwarf are you?

I've always thought of myself more as Doc. In many situations I'm often the voice of reason. Certainly in my classroom this is true, where I play referee, psychologist, and calming guru on a daily basis.

This week has been exhausting and draining because of certain kids who are very at risk and teeter on the brink between calm and explosive every single day. Two particular kids that are on medication have had a rough week. They behaved for me about 95% of the time and were diffcult with everyone else. I consider that a triumph, but I've also worn myself out to make this happen. Still, I've maintained on solid footing with both of them each day.

Yesterday Kid A, who is being raised by a grandma, had an especially bad day. His parents are in Mexico and Mom can't take care of the kids for whatever reason. Yet he resents Grandma, like she took him away from Mom. I think that he has an idealized vision of what it would be like to live with Mom. Having grown up without a dad I can understand that. It takes a long time to realize that their best may not be what you want to believe. By the end of the day he was making noises during my lesson and I had to send him out. Our first referral of the year, which I did not want to do.

After Kid A had left I turned to continue the lesson and saw Kid B, who is ADHD, shredding paper into little pieces all over the floor. He got a referral too. I chose that moment because both kids had been warned multiple times and it was time for me to follow through. If I didn't do it they wouldn't take me seriously.

That is how the school day ended.

Kid B returned first after all the others had left and we talked. I know that sometimes he just goes into a fog when he does these things, but other incidents had happened this week to prompt me to finally give him a referral.

Kid A returned and had the proverbial wall up. I was supposed to meet with Grandma that afternoon. I asked him a few questions about her, like how he felt about her, and I got a lot of shrugs. When I suggested that perhaps part of the reason he was mad and acting out was because he wasn't with his mom (all said with sensitivity) I saw the poor kid's eyes fill with tears until they overflowed down his cheeks. Good grief, some of these kids are dealing with so much. And in true machisimo fashion, he just stood stoically and let them fall. I got a tissue and wiped them away, telling him that I want to be his friend and that I'm here for him if he needs me and needs to talk. I just need him to meet me halfway a little. There was a little breakthrough, but I could tell that he didn't like that I was seeing him as vulnerable.

Kid A left and I waited for Grandma for 20 minutes, who never showed up.

I left drained and exhausted, thinking about all of the issues some of these kids have in their lives. No wonder they can't concentrate on schoolwork.

Later in the day I felt the weight of these 2 kids' problems still on my shoulders. How could I not? I feel badly for them. They didn't ask to be born into these situations. It makes me realize how much of our lives is just pure luck, being born into a good family, having loving parents, having both parents. There are a lot of our lives we can control, but there are a lot that we can't. When I see how many challenges some of these kids face at such a young age that are beyond their control, it makes me wonder what the future holds for them.

I had very little left for the rest of the day and started yawning very early.

And then later someone told me I had been grumpy since school began. Ouch.

It is amazing how you can hold it together, hold it together and then.....gush....the tears come and you're over the edge.

Again I wished I could be one of those people who lets things roll off their backs, but, alas, I am not.

Every year has its challenges. This year I already know what they are: an oversized group of 34 kids and several very fragile kids. There are 5 in counseling--FIVE. They are only 9 years old. How can I not feel for them? I guess my 3rd challenge is to either feel a little less, or try to not absorb things so much.

I'm working on it.

But since I'm not there yet, I took today off for a little recharge.


Tricia said...

I have nothing but great respect for what you do, Kristie, caring for all of these children, and so many with challenges. It makes my heart hurt, too. Knowing where to draw the line with your emotions is such a balancing act. Without that compassion, how could you ever connect with the ones who need it most? Sigh. I feel your struggle.

Kristie said...

I really appreciate your comment, Trish. Thank you so much. And when people ask me (and there are several) "why don't you switch careers, or work in a better neighborhood?" I still know that this is what I was meant to do. And it has made me grow so much as a person. It also makes me unbelievably grateful. I count my blessings every single time I pull into my driveway. Thanks again! :-)

Karen said...

My friend was over one day last week and was there for our after-school, get-homework-done time of the afternoon. As I was calling out spelling words for Courtney, my friend said, "And what about all of those kids who don't have a mom at home? What do they do?"

It's heartbreaking to consider all of the challenges so many kids face, especially at such a young age. And like you pointed out, most of their circumstances and struggles are completely out of their control.

Frankly, I'm glad you don't switch careers or switch neighborhoods. And I'm glad you care enough to follow up necessary discipline with kindness and love. I would imagine you are one of the few people trying to love and help some of those children. And what a difference that will make to them! They will remember how you made them feel and how they knew you cared about them! You are the teacher all kids should have!

Kristie said...

Thank you, Karen, so much for your comment. Have I told my Slooks lately how much I love you? The answer to your friend's question is that, unfortunately, those kids just don't get the help. And there are plenty that have parents that just don't know how to help them either because of language or educational barriers. Happily, at my school, we have a fantastic staff full of dedicated teachers who want to be there for our at-risk kids.