Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Everyone Deserves a Childhood

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.


A MilShelb Mom said...

I am so sorry to hear about your student's loss. What a sad day.
I understand what you are talking about with what your kids face. Mine face similar problems. I am constantly amazed at their resilience. Children have a way of getting through most anything. It brings me to tears some days, too.

teacherninja said...

So sorry for your loss. My school is similar. We had a day a couple weeks back where we had a two-hour delay because of weather. So school was starting at 10 instead of 8. Some of the kids coming in at 10 still wanted to be served breakfast, which of course we didn't have because the cafeteria staff were rushing around trying to get lunch ready on such short notice. It's so hard to see hungry kids coming in in the morning. This just sucks.

Michaele Sommerville said...

Hugs to you.

Blink said...

I'm so sorry for your student and your class. I'm sorry for your grief. It is an incredible loss and you are good to acknowledge it. How did I miss this today? Then again, I shouldn't be surprised. I can imagine this situation, like many others, was quietly and quickly acted upon, before others even knew about it. It's our way.

ya ya's mom said...

I so empathize with you jenny. I teach in what sounds like a very similar school. Our kids just deserve so much better!!! They amaze me at all they do despite the challenges they are up against. Wow...what is our world coming to i often ask myself.

And Jim...I'm afraid that tomorrow we'll have a late start due to weather and I'm thankful I have some back up breakfast to offer, because many of my students don't eat unless we feed them. It's just so sad.

Pawan said...

How awful. I'm so sorry. You've said it well, though. Sometimes, it gets to be too much - I understand completely. How lucky for your kids, though that they have a caring and warm teacher who is by their side almost every day. Hang in there, Jenny.

Sarah said...

I so agree! Children deserve to be children.

What a horrible loss that family is facing. I'm sure the efforts your school staff has taken to help them out will be deeply appreciated!

Launa Hall said...

I'm so sorry for the loss in your school family. My thoughts are with you and your kiddos. You brought up other spot-on points about what our children face. I teach low-income pre-schoolers in a VPI program, and ask myself similar questions all the time.