As you read this article, teachers across the nation are breathing a long sigh of relief. They are unplugging the computers, taking down Christmas decorations from their classroom door and sneaking out to their cars for the drive home. They are exhausted, looking forward to a lengthy break. The first semester of the school year is a hard one. The months between August and December are spent introducing children to new classroom rules, expectations and loads of curricula. Students are expected to fall in line, behave properly and digest a ton of information along the way. While most of the students do this without issue, there are always a few who make the fall semester challenging.
For some of our youngsters, we spend the fall trying to learn their specific learning ‘language’, that is, finding ways that will reach that child best. While most kids can learn and grow in a traditional classroom with regular teaching styles, some require a little more custom-built environment.
Some of our wee lads and lasses come from homes where there is a lot of pain and turmoil. Those kids often tell you about this in the hardest ways – by disrupting, misbehaving, treating others disrespectfully or fighting. Others of these children spend the fall in tears, anxious and uncomfortable in a new classroom, trying hard to learn trust with a new adult who must prove themselves trustworthy before he or she will let down their guard.
There are always a few students whose parents make the fall semester difficult, hovering over their child at every turn, sending one too many emails, making one too many phone calls, dropping by for one too many visits. But there are many, many more whose parents are completely disconnected. It’s those parents, the absent ones, who make teachers worry more. Are the parents equally disconnected at home?
As the teachers drive home from the school for the final time in December, they will relish the thought of their days ahead: freedom, sleeping late, and spending time with their families. But their thoughts will drift to what the holiday break will look like for their students. Will Johnny eat well, or at all? Will Suzy’s parents make sure she takes her medication? Will Billy be safe with his grandparents? Will Karen’s mom get the diagnosis they are fearing? Will there be anything under the tree at Jason’s house? Will the foster child be moved to another home before we return from the break? Will Jessica’s grandfather make it through Christmas? Will someone take Nathaniel to the doctor for the horrible cough and congestion? Will Christmas be merry and bright at Anne’s house after her parents’ recent divorce?
While the end of the semester means a wonderful, joyful, delightful, well-deserved break for educators and students alike, it also serves as a reminder to many of us that ‘our kids’ from school don’t all have such holly, jolly days. As you enter these final days before your family’s big day of celebrations, take a moment to stop and consider those whose families and homes don’t look quite like yours.