I spent a couple hours in my classroom on Saturday reading my student's journals. On my very first day, I asked them to write me a note telling me about themselves. Who they are, fun things they want me to know and important things I need to know. Most of these were really short and actually quite funny. In general the things a 12 year-old finds important are not the things I was thinking about. For instance, although I'm happy to know Sam (name changed to protect the innocent) loves to play Xbox but not the Wii, it would be more helpful to know their parents are in the middle of a messy divorce and I should always email both of them!
Aside from the information I learned from my assignment, I was able to read another assignment that most of them participated in back in December with their "real" teacher. They were asked to write a letter to someone asking for a Christmas present that could not be bought in a store.
Over and over. Stories of broken families and homes. Abuse and addiction. Prison and divorce. Abandonment and neglect.
When I talked about it later with the hubs, I couldn't help but cry. I LOVE these kids. I look forward to going to work everyday. It's a balance to be sure, I hate leaving G but I do love my job. The thought of literally dropping G off at my parent's house and then NEVER going back for him so that when he's in 6th or 7th grade he writes a letter to me asking me why he wasn't good enough.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!! That's for real. I have a student who's mom left when they were 18 months old. Another who's dad tried to literally light them on fire. Another who's dad's in jail for abuse. Another who's dad is in prison. Another who has FIVE (half) siblings who they have literally never met and don't even know they're names. Another who's dad is in in-patient rehab. And this might not seem like a big deal to everyone, but another who has literally never been to any church. Ever.
What made me just as sad but was maybe less shocking was how many of them just feel...unimportant. Ignored. In the way. They want their parents to stop fighting, their parents to listen to them. One student literally asked for their parents to just talk and listen to them. That's all. Just SEE me and HEAR me. Let me know you care. That you want me.
As a new parent my heart broke over and over and over. I can't imagine doing the horribly awful stuff to G but every time I facebook instead of interact with him, every time I choose housework over him, I'm telling him he's not important enough. It's easy to be judgmental towards these dead-beat parents but I don't know their stories either.
I have truly found my calling and it feels so good. I am so humbled and in awe of how God has worked throughout my life to bring me to this point and place in time. On Saturday all I wanted to do was take all these kids home with me and love them and show them what precious creations they are. Obviously I can't do that BUT I can make sure they know I value them and like them and enjoy their company and presence. And maybe, just maybe, one or two will leave my classroom everyday feeling a little bit better. A little bit happier. A little bit loved. A little bit valued and wanted.
And maybe, just maybe, God'd love will be so apparent in me that it will plant a tiny little seed that grows and grows until God's grace and love transforms this student or that student and changes a whole family.
My "job" is giving me the chance to truly change the future for some of these kids. What an awesome responsibility. It's definitely one I take seriously.