During the week, I spend a solid 35 hours looking into the faces of these tiny little clowns- 28 fifth grade clowns. They are a group of incredible humans, but most of the time I seem to know it more than they.
I say, "that was awesome. Thank you for walking us through how you did that math problem!"
They respond, "Uh. Mrs. B. I got it wrong"
I attempt to high-five them and they accuse me of being too enthusiastic. So I offer them a low five and attempt a serious face. I ask, "what do you mean you got it wrong?? Did you learn something just now by working through this problem?"
"Well. Yah. I know how to solve it now," they add with confused faces.
"Perfect. Well the right answer wasn't '11'; the right answer was figuring how how not to solve this problem so you could get to 11!"
They walk away slowly assessing me while I chuckle and the rest of the class laughs, mostly happy none of them was on the spot just now.
We laugh so much in my classroom. Sometimes, when I feel the day is taking too long or what we are learning is threatening our understanding, I stop the lesson for a story. I overdo it. I use big hands. I engage them in silly stories and banter to further their sarcasm and wit, but more importantly, I show them what it looks like to interact socially with an adult.
There are too many "right answers" in these kids' lives. Too much of "do it this way or get out". Sometimes there's a punishment for simply having a different opinion. By the time this crowd is ten, they've learned to lay low and please their people. There's no disagreeing.
So I am at odds. I walk a fine line as an educator. I'm not the mom, I'm the teacher. But what happens when a student doesn't need a teacher, she needs a mom because her true mother called her a slut earlier that morning. She's ten and an exceptional student, and even if her mother didn't mean it, she said it, and sent her daughter to school to process that with her little ten year old brain.
I'm at odds because a boy who is handsome and tall and funny with a mound of potential gets kicked out of his house each morning. His step dad wakes him up at 7:30 and tells him to go. School starts at 9:30, and the walk is roughly five minutes. He doesn't open up much about this but it hurts him. He's told me it makes him sad.
So, my question, dear readers, is where do I stand? If I was their mother, I could hold them and pray with them and say I am sorry. If I was a social worker it would be easy to say these kids are at risk. I would have a plan and a program and support. But I'm not. I'm a teacher. I have to stay neutral. I would never speak against a parent to a child. So what do I say? What do I do?
For the time, I find myself being the recipient of hugs from students I don't yet even know. Kids in other classes. Kids I've never taught. It seems they aren't looking for a teacher or a new way to solve math; those are irrelevant in their hierarchy of needs. They need love. Of which I will never have enough to give.
So for now I hug. I hug and I practice handing this weight up to Jesus because I can't win at this. I can't love enough or say the perfect words to change these kids' home life. I'm just one girl. #kathleenkelley
I'll continue living my real authentic life in this place where I've been so clearly sent. I'll attempt to be a peacemaker and a silent set of arms that hug back. Maybe that will be enough. Let that be enough, Jesus, or show me what to do because I know I'm not in this alone