Burdens and Blessings

Today I realized yet again how important my job as a teacher is. Three students showed their trust in me by sharing their precious secrets, fears, and interests. Each of these children came to me and shared in their own special ways that I treasure.

The First Student
One of my students opened up to me about a traumatic experience that she had. She and her mother were driving when a person on a small moped lost control of it and swerved in front of their car. She watched this person hit the windshield right in front of her and roll off the front of the car. Unfortunately, her mother was not able to stop in time. The person died.

This little girl was non-functioning. She was walking around, completely numb. When I asked her if she was okay, she burst into tears. She told me that she couldn’t stop thinking about it, that it kept replaying over and over in her head. Through her sobs, she kept on saying, “But Miss, he was wearing a helmet; he was wearing a helmet.” My heart is breaking for her right now. I can’t even imagine what she is going through. This is a child that I am sending my heart out to. I feel powerless, but I did every thing I knew to do in order to help her.

The Second Student
My second student is a stoic sophomore who has seen it all and is tougher than everything, just ask him. He is struggling in my class, as well as his others. It is not because he isn’t capable of doing the work– something he readily admits; he just doesn’t care (his words, not mine). He says to me that he heard that junior year is the hardest year of high school. As we talked about his future he revealed that he used to be on the honor roll, a straight A student.

I asked him if he knew why he changed. He said he knew exactly what the problem was. He got mixed with the wrong crowd and started doing things he should not do. Now he is stuck in the culture and is trying to get out of it. His parents know of this and are doing everything that they can to help him. His eyes welled with tears as he talked to me about how he knows he needs to get out of it and that it is so hard, but he is trying. He opened up to me about this, allowing his vulnerability to show. I know that it was so hard for him to share this with me. I was honored to know that he felt safe and secure enough to seek my encouragement/advice about it. I told him so.

The Third Student
This story is completely different from my other ones. I have a student who is on the spectrum and struggles sometimes in class. He is brilliant but socially awkward. Well, when I think of it, what freshman isn’t a little socially awkward? This young man has two things that he fixates on: reading (it soothes him when he needs it) and movies. You tie those two things together and he is in heaven.

Through the year, we have been working very hard to build a relationship. Today, I realize that we made it. He came up to me, out of breath, asking me if I’ve ever read The Great Gatsby. When I answered in the affirmative, he started gushing about the fact that they are making a movie of it, directed by Baz Luhrman (the same one who did Romeo and Juliet with Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes). This was IMPORTANT to him. He shared it with me throughout the hour (even when he was supposed to be working on his assignments). I just let him, happy in the fact that he was sharing something with me that he valued. Plus, I can’t wait to see the movie. His enthusiasm has got me interested.

The Gift of a Teacher
The gift of touching so many young lives can be overwhelming. Knowing that I was a safe place for these young adults to come and share really means something to me. It also has left me emotionally drained and torn up inside. My heart aches for the first two. Actually, aches is not even a strong enough word. I am heartsick. When I think of the trauma and struggles that they have gone through already at such a young age… I don’t even have words. However, I know that this will help them to become even stronger adults. Knowing that I had a part in comforting them makes me feel like I am answering a higher calling, that my purpose in life is beyond my comprehension. It is both a burden and a blessing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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