it’s the week before spring break, and my kids have been hellish this week. it’s the first week of real, consistent, springtime sunshine, the first week of light in the mornings on the drive to work, the first week of fresh air and that damp smell of new earth and of buds peeping bright green life through the dirt. everyone’s antsy to be out. no one wants to be in that classroom, me included.
anyway, because of the craziness in the atmosphere, i was super excited that the 4th-6th grade classes got called down this afternoon for some impromptu performance. we weren’t told anything about it as teachers—just an announcement over the intercom at around 10 am, halfway through our english lesson, that fourth through sixth grades would be meeting in our cafeteria for a guest performance. they were being rowdy anyway, so it was with relief that i rounded up my students and walked them on down.
turns out, it was a super cool rap/play/skit thing put on by high schoolers in the neighborhood about how to regulate emotions. it offered a lot of alternatives than violence and tempermental outbursts. the rap/play/skit thing was especially relevant to my students because it addressed a lot of issues that they’re dealing with: things like divorce, abandonment, abuse, neglect, and all the anger that arises because of those experiences. the high schoolers danced around on stage and rapped about “stop feel think, choose and act!” to some catchy singy-songy tune while my fourth graders watched, enraptured.
at one point, though, one of the characters on stage started sharing about her older brother who had been shot in a gang fight. she did a short soliloquoy about how angry she felt, all the time, because she had lost him. the girl was a pretty good actor, and i could see a lot of my students sucked in by her character’s story.
then i looked a little closer and i saw one of my favorite students, student T, with his jacket pulled up over his face. when he pulled his jacket collar away, i could tell he was crying.
T is the bully of the classroom, the tough guy. he doesn’t cry.
i tiptoed over to him and kneeled down besides him and asked if he was okay.
he nodded, quietly. “yeah, ms. wang. i just miss my dad.”
student T’s father was stabbed to death in a drunk fight about two years ago. student T has intense, uncontrollable anger issues. he’s going to therapy, getting help, seeing counselors for anger management. he’s also my hardest kid to deal with almost every day. he yells out, he swears, he hits other students. he’s mean and rude and hurtful. whenever he’s upset, he lashes out at me, too.
but i completely adore him, and he knows it.
and kneeling there this afternoon beside him, i almost started crying, too.
i can’t even imagine—can’t begin to fathom the amount of suffering student T must be going through inside. he’s nine years old and his father was killed. he’s nine years old and he shouldn’t have to hurt the way he does.
it just struck me all at once, hunched over there in our dirty poorly lit cafeteria with the awful acoustics. my world is so different than my students’ world. my world is brimming with love, care, gentleness and affection. i have literally the most perfect life imaginable. i have the support of amazing family, friends, and co-workers. i have constant affirmation of my worth, my intelligence, my value, my abilities. i have unconditional, all reliable love in my God and my faith. i have an established and respected community. i live in warmth and plenty. i lack nothing. absolutely nothing.
and this little boy who is nine years old whom i love with my whole heart breaks daily in ways i will never experience.
it just struck me, that’s all. i wanted to write about things that strike me. i want to remember them even in years far past when student T is 29, when maybe i don’t teach anymore, when i’m not surrounded by heartbreak and suffering. i wanted to write because i think it’s so, so important to remember our blessings.
i wanted to write because i don’t ever want to forget student T.
if you have a moment, could you please pray for him? i know i will be.