Or so it will seem...I have a little girl in my class who hasn't had the best of home lives. Her real dad raped her step-sisters, and he's supposedly a wanted fugitive. In my mind, her mom's a loser and so is her stepdad, but that's a judgment I've made based on what I see with my own eyes and what is hearsay from the little girl. They don't seem to provide much support at home, and her stepdad has been known to be explosive when he gets mad. And this little girl - she's a drama queen, let me tell you. She's the type that talks about her situation way too openly, to the point where it's awkward and annoying. She likes attention, and so it's difficult to know when she's exaggerating or blowing something way out of proportion. Still, it makes me kinda sad when she comes to school with her hair all in tangles, hanging in her eyes, sometimes matted. She wears shoes that don't fit because they're two sizes too big, so she flops around in them all day, including during recess or gym. On top of everything, she's dyslexic and struggles in school. My, life is treating her well.
And I'm hard on her to boot. I sent her to the principal's office this week because I've warned her about not doing her homework. And I take her recess away and make her stay inside to get that homework done so she won't get zeroes. I'm on her constantly about staying focused, while her mind is probably on the crap she dealt with the night before or wondering where her dad is. And when she brought me a letter this week asking if she could live with me, because "my parents hate me...and I'm scared and cry all the time," I just told her, "Thanks, I'll read it in a bit....go back to your desk and get busy."
I'm sure there are teachers out there who stop what they're doing, hug the child, console them, hear them out, etc., who would think I'm completely heartless for not doing so. I absolutely feel cold and callous sometimes. But I also know that you just can't get wrapped up in all of the mess that these kids deal with at home. I read the letter and for a split second felt the urge to tear up, but there was no time for that. I was taking the breakfast and lunch count, monitoring several students that were off-task, and quite frankly didn't have time for some one-on-one counseling.
So I try to find other ways to give her a little attention. I brought her bobby pins for that hair, I tutor her after school, and I keep her in at recess knowing fully well that she actually likes to stay in with me in the classroom. And what she doesn't know is that I caught the counselor as soon as I saw her that morning and showed her the letter. She also doesn't know that I have daydreamed about being able to take some of these kids home, but it's not going to happen. I'll just keep being that pretty strict teacher who provides as stable and predictable environment as possible.
I guess it's depressing to talk about, but I think it's an interesting part of my job.