I'm sitting here in my classroom half an hour after the kids have gone home, crying. It's been that sort of a day.
I learned this morning that a younger sibling (7 months old) of one of my students died last night. I know the baby had been in the hospital (maybe in and out, I'm not certain) but I don't know details. This family has a second-grader, my little first-grader, a pre-schooler in a high-needs program at another school and this baby. I don't know if mom works, but we learned today that dad lost his job last week. He's had bronchitis and hasn't been able to work so he lost his job. Money was tight before, I can't imagine what it will be like now.
The fabulous people at my school have kicked into high gear contacting various groups and government folks to find any kind of help (funeral costs, food). Our principal is planning to send an Edible Arrangement from the school. Many people have already offered to donate towards grocery store gift cards or anything else that might be needed.
I managed to continue teaching all day, through a fog. I hope my student will be back tomorrow. Our counselors are already on deck to meet with both these kiddos. I'm not sure how to support a child through something like this (both the loss of a sibling and the difficulty involved in watching your parents handle such trauma). I'm grateful to be at a school with so many people who have stepped up to help in big and small ways. I know they'll help me help my student.
But I'm also a bit bitter about what the families at our school face. I've got one student living in a homeless shelter (one that I know of, anyway). The majority are on free or reduced lunch. And have you ever looked at that? You have to make almost nothing to qualify for that. I know of at least one family that doesn't qualify but can barely make their bills. Many of our families don't have health insurance, which means that little problems become much bigger problems. The areas in which many of our kids live are not as safe as we would like. They may live two or three families in a small apartment.
Amazingly enough, these kids are happy and eager to learn. Working with them is a delight. Their families are incredibly grateful for all we do for their children. They try to support us in every way we ask. They do this in spite of crowded living conditions, not enough money, working multiple jobs, and, often, limited English. I'm amazed by them.
They deserve better. We as a society deserve better. No one should struggle to survive like this. No child should face such adversity. They should get to be children.