I am in my 11th year of teaching which means I have had contact with hundreds of kids.  There have been students that have affected me on different levels and quite honestly, some that I can’t even remember.  Through all these years, there have only been a couple of students who have seriously affected me.  Until now, the others have always been warm and fuzzy students – ones that I bonded with and have since been to their high school graduations and even one wedding.

But yesterday, that changed.  I’ll call this student Anna.  Our lives met three years ago when she was in 6th grade.  She had been in special education since 2nd grade, but didn’t make it to my caseload until 6th.  She was a funny girl, much more mature for age than the others.  She had low grades and an even lower self-esteem.  Over the course of the three years she was in my classroom, I found myself becoming more attached to her.  She slowly began to open up to me – about the alcoholic mother she lived with, her drug addict father who wanted nothing to do with her, and a grandmother who didn’t have time for her.  She had her boughts with low grades, hanging with the wrong crowd, and though I’m not completely sure, some drug experimentation.  She finally graduated 8th grade and I was so proud.  I cried when she walked across the stage.

It wasn’t until she was gone that I began to understand that for some reason, Anna had tapped into my maternal instinct.  I was protective of her.  I tried very hard to let it go – she was in high school and I would have to be happy with a chance visit from her.  That visit came yesterday.

The look in her eyes brought me to tears.  I wanted to bundle her up and take her home.  The things she shared with me were frightening and I was at a loss for words.  At 15, this child had such a sadness in her eyes it broke my heart.  In the mess that is her life, she did share with me some steps she is taking to make it better.  I tried to give her advice and I did my best to help guide her.  I gave her my phone number and told her that if she ever needed me, I would do what I could.

I can’t help but ask myself was it enough?  Did I give her what she needed?  Could I give her more?  I know none of these questions will be answered, but I worry.  I worry a lot for my little Anna.



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3 responses to “Students

  1. Don

    My wife is a grade school liberrian. So many of her kids come from awful backgrounds, it’s heartbreaking. Some of them are special needs kids as well. There’s not much she or any educator can do, but the one thing you can do — show a child that someone cares, show a child that there are ways to make it better — can make all the difference in the world. Sometimes she gets the most awful kids and has to make them work off their misbehavior and the experience of working with an adult shelving books or something transforms them. Man. Sometimes I think the trouble with children these days is parents. Anyway, keep up the good work.

  2. This certainly brings back some memories from when I was a high school teacher. I remember trying to take one very sad, struggling girl under a protective wing. I am not sure it did much good.

    In one case (and I wrote about it in a blog message on the old blog site), I was able to help a girl from North Carolina who found herself dropped off with unfriendly relatives in Seattle after her mother died.

    She was smart and strong, but confused and demoralized. I helped her get into college in a rural part of Washington–I hoped it would be closer in spirit to her home in North Carolina. I never knew what happened to her…I hope it worked out.

  3. Your ability to help is limited under the circumstances, but I think the fact that you made the effort is surely something she will notice. And, as Don says, you never know what will make a difference to a struggling kid.

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