Not Alone – A Teacher’s Perspective

Huddle with hands in center7:57 am. That’s when I knew something was off. She walks in quietly, hood on. I say, “Hey.” She gives a quiet “Hey” in response. She sits and doesn’t say anything else, just stares ahead.

8:10 am. That’s when I start to wonder where he is. I ask the other students. He never misses class.

Another teacher walks in and writes a note at my desk, letting me know my student has been placed in foster care. “It all happened yesterday,” she mouths to me with her back to the other students.

I pause. No words. Then I feel it, the knot in the back of my throat. My eyes getting wet.

I look up at my colleague. “I think I’m going to cry.” It’s all I can get out at the moment. She tells me she is real sad too.

“Is this a good thing?” I ask this before I even realize, of course it is a good thing. A family situation is always what’s best, what’s ideal, what’s the goal. He moved to a situation that better meets his needs at this time.

I know this, and yet, my heart still breaks. This bright, silly boy who made my mornings so happy. A student whose academic growth was so evident and social emotional growth even more.

My colleague tells me she doesn’t know if the other students know yet.

I know one who does. She’s sitting quietly at her desk. I look at her.

This is the third time this year a good friend has been placed back with family or foster care. To her, it’s the third time this year a good friend left. Oh, my heart aches for you.

This all happened before 8:30 am.

I let my students work on an assignment quietly while I sit down at my desk for a second and say a prayer for the student who was placed in foster care, the other students who miss their friend, and the teachers who will miss this silly kid’s jokes. I thank Him for the gift of foster care and for people who show up to assume this role in the lives of so many children. I ask Him to remember us all, to let us know He hasn’t forgotten us, and help us believe that even though no child should know this much pain, He is the God who works all things for our good and His glory.

I let tears fall quietly as I think of how resilient my students are and admire them for it. This is what I want for them, resilience and faithfulness. This is the kind of people I want them to be, resilient in the face of pain and faithful despite their circumstances.

Compiled emotional pain is too heavy to carry alone. No one is a stranger to this. Some are acquainted with the mixed bag of emotions that comes with the pain of loss earlier than others, but none are strangers.

So as I think about how I want to help shape these students for the world tomorrow, what I want them to know is that I see them, I hear them, I’m in their corner and I believe in them. I want them to know that even if I don’t know the pain of their specific situation, I know the pain of loss. I know it well. And although, I wish this wasn’t a way I can relate to them, I am happy to let them know they are not alone.

Robbie Fore teaches English/Language Arts and History in the Anthony J. Brill Middle School of Thomas Academy.

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