I was making last minute copies that morning and trying to make sure everything was ready to go before the students came in after breakfast, when my assistant principal interrupted. He looked pale, had his head down, and avoided eye contact. When he finally looked up, I could see that his eyes were red. Not making the connection, I charged it to his allergies and continued with passive listening. “Mrs. Allen, I need to talk to you.” Once I heard him speak, I knew that it wasn’t his allergies, but something was wrong. “There was a drug bust at Dajai’s house last night and her mom and dad went to jail, her older brother went with other relatives, and her younger sister with somewhere else.” At this point, he had my full attention. See, it was really important for him to give me this information before Dajai came to class, because she was “that kid”! You know the one that will disrupt your whole classroom in a matter of seconds. The one that challenges you daily. The one that will get set off by the smallest acts. The one we spend the most time with. The one that our success as a teacher is built on. The one that shapes us; develops us; and grows us. The one we spend the most time with and grow to love. Here was my assistant principal telling me “that kid” lost her whole family in one night! So, we did what any educator would do, made a plan and prepared for the worse. As she entered the classroom, I told myself that no matter what happened, I was going to do what I could to keep her in the classroom, I was going to try to be understanding, I was going to let her eat lunch with me, and so on… After a few minutes, in she walks and gives me a piece of paper that she was carrying, “Here Mrs. Allen, I drew a picture for you last night.” I was a little confused, because honestly speaking, I didn’t prepare for this reaction. Then she says, “It’s a picture of a doctor. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.” Tears filled my eyes. Here I was looking at a child who had been separated from her whole family the night before and yet she still had enough tenacity and will to dream and hope; and if she had enough will to dream it, then it was my duty to make sure she was equipped to have it! I kept her with me 3 days a week after school for tutoring and drive her home afterwards. Although we continued to have ups and downs, good days and interesting days, by the end of the year, I gained her trust and she became one of my top students! Teachers have stories similar to this all over the world. We show up daily to teach kids with the state mandates hanging over our heads; district initiatives tugging at us; site goals to meet; and somewhere in the midst of all that, we still manage to find time to love kids and create a safe space for them thrive, grow, and learn!
YOU ARE THE CHANGE AGENT! YOU ARE THE VOICE! YOU MAKE THE DIFFERENCE!