Tag Archives: caring

Cramming in Last Minute Caring

studying hard

By Dean+Barb


We have about a month of school left. I am worn out from a long and stressful year. The weather is getting warmer and sunny (rare during Michigan winters). Kids are getting more restless and active. Everyone knows that we are pretty much down to the end and the pressure is on to make sure that we “cover all of the content” required by the syllabus, district, or curriculum office. Every Friday I am exhausted and ready for the weekend.

I too am feeling the pressure of the end of the year, but in a different way. I feel like I am still learning to know my students and I only have limited time to engage them on a deep level. The seniors (which I no longer teach) are thinking about grad parties and college choices. This is my last month of having my students in class daily and getting to know their hopes and dreams. I have limited time to hear their jokes, listen to stories about their plays, music performances, and games. Time is slipping away from me being there to hear about students’ struggles with family issues, friendship problems, or personal dilemmas.

I think about the students that I don’t know as well as I would like to because they are quiet or closed off. I think about the girl who has a hard shell around her keeping out anyone from seeing her deep pain. I think about the boy who thinks that no one really understands what his home life is like. So many students with so many dreams, yet also so much personal pain and struggles.

I want to finish the year strong. To me that means lots of listening, caring,  and connecting. To me that means pushing my students to love themselves and each other.  Our last project focuses on poverty through the lens of the Great Depression. I want my students to care about the less fortunate and be empathetic.

I will end the year by concentrating on connecting with students personally.

I will end the year by speaking encouraging words daily.

I will end the year by challenging students to consider the less fortunate.

I am tired. I am ready for a break, but my students still need my best.

I will end the year with love. I will show students how to love each other. I will leave my students with a message of hope and love for all.

We are going to cram in as much caring this month as we can…

Caring

We lost a student this summer. He was tragically shot from the back seat while driving his car. The shooter claims that it was an accident and the one other passenger supports his story. Friends and family don’t believe it and the truth will probably never be known.

This happened just days before Mike Brown was shot in Ferguson. It has been heavy on my heart this year, but felt too personal to blog about. This holiday season has really hit me with how many of my students and their families are suffering, rather than celebrating.

It would have been his 18th birthday last week. We had a moment of silence and shared some good memories of him. Many of his friends have really struggled this year to deal with his death. I teach them in a senior math class. There have been days when they break down and can’t work at all. At first I got frustrated by how often that it started occurring. Then I realized that the students needed help. We got them some counseling and they are starting to deal with it in a healthy way.

I haven’t really been able to help these students much. But I am there for them, listen to them, and show up to everything that they do to remember him. I care and they notice. They asked me to help make a memorial (out of concrete, of course) for him at the school. They are afraid that he will be forgotten. We won’t let that happen.

There are many other stories from many other students who are hurting this year. I can’t fix them, but I care and love them.

When things don’t go as planned …

We talked about racism this week. We have been building up to this moment, waiting until students had been exposed to the struggles and successes of the Civil Rights Movement. I went into class with a plan. We started off by looking at the frisking of Forest Whitaker by The Good, Racist People. We then talked about racism in our society. I was building up for a discussion on topics such as Trayvon Martin and whether or not affirmative action is still needed.

But that is not where students took the discussion. My plan got sidetracked. They started sharing personal stories of discrimination. We heard from students with mixed races in their families and how their own family members treated then differently. We heard from students who themselves had been discriminated against by strangers. Students were vulnerable and shared private personal things.

One girl had a boy break up with her when he found out she was Jewish. Another student shared how his deaf parents were called “retarded” just because they can not speak clearly. Other students shared the struggles of siblings with Downs Syndrome being treated as stupid and called names. One boy shared his struggles with ADHD and how he has been picked on for being immature because of things that he can not control. One student shared how she was kicked out of her church youth group when they found out she was LGBT. She had to find a new church to go to that would accept her.

We never got to the topics that I had planned. It was the best class ever.

Students felt safe enough to share some of the most painful moments in their life and not be judged. I felt blessed just to listen as I walked around the room handing the microphone from one student to another.

Things didn’t go as I had planned; they went way better.

I am thankful for students who will talk about the real stuff in their life. I am thankful to be part of a school that supports them.

Discrimination may never end in this country but I feel confident that these students will lead us into a better future where we will see it continually decrease.