I hope you’ve had a great summer! It was so great to meet you today and put a face to the name I’ve been praying for all summer. You see, I’m not used to being on the other side of the table. I sat in your chair for so many years, excited to see the little faces staring back at me, and watched as their parents wrung their hands as they shared every detail of their child’s life.
I didn’t understand then, but I do now. Now that I’m on the other side of the table.
Remember in school, when they taught you that every child is different and learns in different ways? Remember how you learned all of those strategies to reach every learner? Can you promise me you’ll remember those this year?
Can you remember that every face that walks through your door, carries a story? And sometimes it isn’t so much about what you teach them this year, but how you love and meet them right where they are.
I know they didn’t teach much about this in school, I wish more teachers were aware. I’m not sure of the statics, but I would dare to say over half of those little faces sitting on your rug during Morning Meeting have experienced trauma that you or I couldn’t possibly comprehend.
I know you have so much to do. The demands of your job are incredibly high, higher than most realize. I know you already put in more hours than you get paid for, but would you just listen for one second? Can you try to learn a little more about this before this school years starts? Would you mind thinking about those little faces in a way, maybe, you never have before?
Trauma doesn’t have a color or a shape. It looks different in every little face and story that follows. Trauma displays itself in many different ways. But I can promise you one thing, these kids, they won’t fit in your mold. And that’s okay, because kids aren’t supposed to fit in molds, right?
We’ve worked hard all summer using words to communicate our feelings. We have earphones and chewy necklaces and weighted compression vests and weighted blankets. So sometimes what looks like “bad behavior” to you is really just a cry for help. Because for some of those faces in your class, processing the world takes much more effort. Before moving their “sticks” would you mind asking yourself “what does this child need?”
Case workers and Guardian Ad Litems and Agency workers have been in and out of our home all summer. We’ve gone to court and had visits and talked about things kids should never have to talk about. I’ve listened to stories with an unchanged face on the outside, that wrecked me so deeply on the inside I could barely stand up. We’ve been to therapies and appointments as many times as some kids have gone to the pool. And experienced the emotional rollercoaster of it all.
So when that kid suddenly becomes quiet in your class, gets a blank face, completely shuts down, and looks like they aren’t listening to you. It’s not you, I promise. It’s not disrespect, that’s what happens when they get triggered. When a painful memory from their past gets brought up to the surface again. It could have been a smell, or a sound, or that feeling in their stomach before lunch. It could have been something someone said or how they responded. Honestly, sometimes it could be nothing. It just happens. So before you make them answer you or they have to move their “clip” for not listening, would you mind just showing a little grace?
I’m not asking you to give them a free pass. Our expectations of them are high at home. They are to be respectful and obedient. They are to participate and cooperate. And I’m here to tell you, I will be up there to that school to take care of any problem you need me to. I know how hard it is to try to teach kids and improve test scores when you’re constantly having to parent someone else’s children. I’m not asking for you to treat them differently, and I’m definitely not asking you to never discipline them. Because kids thrive with structure and rules and boundaries.
I guess I’m just reminding you that not every kid walks in your classroom with a head start. Can just you remember that every face that walks through your door, carries a story?
Sharing them with you is one of the hardest things I’ll ever do. Because I know every mom thinks this, but my children, they’re amazing. I waited so long to be their Mama, and when I drop them off in the mornings, know I’m leaving in your classroom, my very beating heart.
And just know that sometimes it isn’t so much about what you teach them this year, but how you love.
A Mama Who Fiercely Loves Her Children Who Carry Stories