I teach a lot of great kids. Many of them learn to write better and to think better than before they entered my room and they come back and thank me and tell me I made a difference in their lives. I wonder though, about those I never see again.
My students are struggling against issues that make school challenging. Teen pregnancy is a reality for 5-6 kids I know a year, new mothers and fathers. Seriously violent and dangerous neighborhoods are the places my students take a bus home to. Abuse, neglect, poverty, language barriers, learning disabilities, nutrition issues, lack of health care, drugs, alcohol abuse, are all par for the course. A few years ago many students had jobs after school. Now they can't find them.
Their issues aren't unusual in America. I know these burdens come to school with many children everyday. What I wonder though, is how some students cope with all of this and still learn while others use their baggage as an excuse to sit down and rest. I see students daily who have given up on school and can't wait for me to give up on them so they can get back to resting, coasting, cruising, crashing. I wonder where the resilient get their strength and how to teach resilience to those who lost it or never had it.
I wonder what their turning point was. When did these boys (and they are most often boys) get so lost? What was lacking in their life? In their experience with school? Who pushed them in the wrong direction? How did learning become lame? When did they fall behind? How do I get them back?
I know all of those answers are as individual as each person. And I know in a general way how to reach each of them. It can only be done though, one by one. Like a doctor who moves among the wounded of a massive battle, I can't spend enough time with each casualty. But I am stunned by the realization that I must choose. Overwhelmed by the idea of deciding who to focus my attention on. Unable to fit them all in the spotlight I've left them all in the dark. Shouting directions into the shadows and wishing they could hear me better.
I wonder if my resilience is slipping? I have not lost the will to help my students, but my shoulders ache with the weight of their needs, the pressure of their test scores, and the burden of their potential futures.