Finding Joy in Each Eye Roll

Thursday prior to break for students and staff, our student services team met to discuss student concerns as we do each week. Amidst the bustle of holiday concerts, final day rallies, and 12 Days of Christmas (yes, it is not culturally inclusive, and I plan to do better) for my staff, we sat in a haze together. I could feel the hot tears forming and the tightening of my throat listening to the details of pain that our students were experiencing. I had no idea. Of course there are the handful of students that I am constantly checking in with who are suffering more than usual this time of year. However, the details from a new handful of students were unexpected. Severe. A mom reporting they may need to flee in the middle of the night. A student hardly able to stay at school, concerned because of an imminent eviction. Whispers of another who had lost his home and is couch surfing. Too many more details too personal and identifiable if I type too much here for the small community I serve. The weight of their pain threatened to crush me.

To leave for the break was not a reprieve or exciting for these students.  Honestly, I worry about them as I type.

It got me thinking about our own family gatherings, and I quickly realized that these concerns are within our family walls on both sides. My brother has not seen his children for months. We have not. So much drama splits the family apart until the lines are so blurred and a father chooses not to see his kids instead of dealing with the mental health of their mother. Their stories break the hearts of their school personnel and their auntie. For the other side of the family, on Christmas morning, I whispered to my husband that we might want to mention a fresh impending divorce on his side to our daughters. Like many fathers, he chose not to in order to keep the pain away as long as possible.  When my eight year old noticed the gift tag minus an aunt's name there, she put it together. By third grade, a few of her friends are experiencing their families splitting. She knows what this means for not seeing her aunt anymore. A depressed pallor lay over Christmas Day as we tiptoed around my brother-in-law and nephew's fresh pain. Not to mention my own at the removal of a much loved light from my soon to be former sister-in-law.

The fact is that we are all very susceptible to this level of pain. From year to year, relationships are tenuous. The reality is that loss of mental health can threaten homes. Safety. Livelihood.

It is not that I have any answers in this post tonight. I don't. I have a heart that is burdened with the personal connections to pain over the holiday break and a nagging sense of urgency to want to lay eyes on my students. To see them walk the halls. Roll their eyes when I sing "Good morning to you." and hear their complaints about school lunch and the dress code. Because that's normal for teens. Planning to leave a house in the middle of the night due to fear, concern over where your next meal may come from, or deep depression over the loss of a parent in your home should not be. But it is.

This short post is simply meant to be a reminder. We must return from break ready to engage with our students. See them as humans. Know that some, even those we would never suspect, are suffering immeasurable sadness, fear, anxiety. Yet, they are in our building. In our classrooms. Looking to us for reprieve from a sad home. From the fear.  The hunger. Please, educators. Meet them there and launch in with them. Remember to be gentle and caring.

At Spooner High, we have seven more sleeps until the 8:00 a.m. bell rings again. My fervent prayer is that my students can be teens until then. Some won't, and I intend to be the first one to greet them with my good morning song. Boy do I cherish each eye roll present in my building! Every glorious, overdrawn rotation means one more day with each of these treasured souls with whom we have been gifted. May we never forget that truth regardless of the time of year. May we be ready to welcome them to routine. Warmth. Learning. Hope.

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