Part two...One Part Heartbreaking
After an amazing morning of mathematics inquiry, I delivered my students to gym class and sat down at my desks for a few moments to reflect with my colleagues. I shared how the morning had gone and they shared their experiences. We started to plan for the coming week. Our director of tech. integration popped in and booked a PD session focusing on green screen technology. One of my colleagues left for recess duty. The conversation was turning to politics just as I started to think about heating up my lunch. My classroom phone rang. The secretary had panic in her voice as she asked that I go immediately to the playground. I sprinted down the hallway in my ballet flats. When I was nearly out of the building I heard them call, "green team team to the back playground." This was a serious response. One of my students was in trouble. My classroom simply couldn't be farther from the back playground. When I got out there I was completely out of breath. I noticed one of my students sitting against the chain link fence. Another was with my colleague just outside the playground fence against some thicket. He looked upset. She looked concerned. Then he bolted. By this time, many teachers and staff, as well as our school resource officer, had arrived on the scene. It was hard to know, without talking to anyone, what had happened. I could easily imagine though.
Things had begun to percolate yesterday. This kid has a complicated life. He has moved a lot. There are a lot of adults who make up his immediate family. They all love him but it is complex. Some of his more trusted/consistent adults had been out of town. He was stressed. He'd had a small conflict yesterday with a boy he regards as a friend. His reaction had been a little over the top. He calmed quickly and acknowledged his stress and over-reaction. He seemingly moved on. This kid, whose attendance has been inconsistent, had attended school every day this week. I was feeling really good about that. I should have known. When a boy said something mean to him, legitimately mean, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. The stress caused him to take flight. He wanted out. He was in crisis and at age ten, didn't have all the skills necessary to cope. I'm over four times his age. I don't always have the skills necessary to cope with stress either.
In the end, this sweet child broke a little. The adults at my school reacted perfectly. He felt support and love. He knew we were there to keep him safe and to protect him. We followed the protocol and reacted appropriately. Decisions were made in the student's best interest. I wouldn't change a single thing about our response. I wish I could change everything for this student. School is hard. The academic demands we place on our ten-year-olds are not always, in my opinion, reasonable. They can cause stress for students. Some of my fourth-grade students have way too much stress in their lives. Some of them are trying to manage the demands of school while solving adult-sized problems. There is no equity for them in the classroom when this much stress is present. They can't possibly access the curriculum in the same way that their peers, their peers with happy little lives, can.
The afternoon was heartbreaking. I want nothing more than to take this child's stress from him. He is sweet and smart and deserves so much more.
Teaching is amazing, teaching is heartbreaking. Each day has the potential to leave a teacher feeling gloriously triumphant and devastated. The work can seem impossible and exhausting. Every time I stop to really think about what happened on this particular day, I am reduced to tears. Teaching is so hard but I can't imagine doing anything else.