Sometimes it takes a smack upside the head to remember that students come from homes. Some of the homes are not so easy to come from. Some of the homes are poor but loving. Some of the homes are well-off but full of apathy. Some of the homes are violent. Some of the homes are fraught with anxiety, hunger, hurt, and the constant edge of ‘not enough.’
I have to remind myself, more times than I should have to, that school should be a safe place. School should be a place where you can get something to eat. School should be a place where the world of possibility opens up to you. School should be a place where you can build yourself up. School should be a place where an adult will listen, carving out a time and place for you to talk.
All of this doesn’t mean it’s easy. It isn’t. It is the hardest work I’ve ever done, and I don’t
even have horses to help me! I serve on a committee at the high school and our purpose is to keep students from falling through the cracks. We rack our brains to come up with ways to help and support these students who are not succeeding. I believe in what we’re doing. I just wish we could come up with something amazing that would stem the flow before we have to lose some of these kids to their own inner “I give up.”
One such student came to me and asked, “What can I do to get my grade to passing?” The simple answer was,”Just do the work. Write. Turn in that first poetry project from five weeks ago.” I had the assignment on my desk at the end of the day, and it smacked me upside the head:
“If you’re not from a poor family, you don’t know the hard times-not being able to afford nice things, having to work more than two jobs, having to come home with little food, not enough money for rent. Poor family. The hard times.
If you’re not from a poor family, you don’t know no new clothes-having to wear clothes from 6th grade, clothes that are too small and ripped, shoes with all the side ripped so water wets your socks, socks with holes so feet freeze in the cold. Poor family. No new clothes.
If you’re not from a poor family, you don’t know bad home-stained carpet and couches, broken cabinets, broken door and windows, bugs, mold, the stench that makes your stomach hurt. No clean water to drink or shower with. Poor family. Bad home. ”
It takes you down to your knees in prayer.