As an educator, I believe we all have that one kid we are trying to save.
When I say the word “save”, it holds a lot of meaning. However, in this case I mean it in the sense of trying to save a kid from themself. There are many kids that we have throughout our career, who could be so much more than what shows in the effort they currently put forth at school and home.
I have been a teacher for eight years and I have had plenty of kids throughout my career I tried to save. I can’t say I was successful in saving all of them, but I pray someday they will look back and see I meant well.
My first year in the classroom, I worked so hard with a student to help her with the confidence to believe that she was fully capable even though she was on an IEP. I gained her trust through simply getting to know her, her interests, and allowing her to use my classroom key as a fidget. The literal key she held onto in class was what unlocked that trust and she started to produce work and understand concepts in my classroom. Her confidence grew and she is not successfully in college and getting ready to graduate to be a teacher herself. Trust me there where many times I wanted to throw my hands up and give up. The fights and conversations I had with her would frustrate me beyond measure, but something kept pushing me to breathe belief into her. I am so glad I did.
My subsequent years in the classroom I had a lot of behavior issues in class. I have and will work hard with students to understand they need to think before they act and their actions have consequences. However when I was working in a middle school setting, knowing students’ prefrontal cortex is not nearly as developed and therefore would not truly understand the concept of “their actions having consequences.”
I struggled to impact these behavior students, but I hope they look back at my best efforts and see I had a point in all of it. There were many phone calls home, trips to the office, and consequences with grades. Some of those students got it together as an 8th grader, while others took longer to understand the concept, some even took until their senior year to really understand that their slacking off early in high school took away opportunities for their future. As an educator, in my peer network, I hear stories about lack of understanding in regards to actions having consequences leak into students’ college years.
Last year as a GT specialist, I had a high school student that was very into the drug scene, ditching classes, and running his poor single mother crazy with his behavior. His mother at one point asked if we could just handle it because she was done trying. As a mother and a teacher, this broke my heart. I knew I had to do everything I could to try and pull this kid back out of the trenches he was stuck in. Needless to say, I couldn’t. This was a reality I knew very early on in my career, but my heart ached knowing he knew his own mother had given up on him. He was one that was too far gone and I tried everything I could to get him back because I know very deep down he still had good in him. The fact his mom had given up on him simply enforced he didn’t have the sense of anyone caring about him.
This year I have a student I know I have to make a difference with. He is so stinking bright and is a great kid, but he is fighting with doing things to get the attention of his peers versus using his gifts for good. I have had numerous conversations with him about what he needs and how I can possibly help him. The hardest part about working with this kid is I totally get what his home life is like. I lived a very similar life growing up. The only thing I can tell him is my story and it doesn’t have to be this hard. I try to tell him things I wish I would have done instead of doing the wrong things to get my parents’ attention.
It breaks my heart when I see kids going through something similar to myself in middle and high school. Now with distance learning happening, I can’t actually check in on him or many of my other students physically. I can’t give them a safe place to escape home life troubles for 55 minutes everyday. You can bet I am going to do everything I can to reach this kid through distance learning and “save” him as much as I can through our distance learning and weekly check-ins.
As an educator, the only thing I know to do to try and save a kid is to not give up on them. We have to let them know we still believe in them and they can be good. Even if we are the only cheerleader they have, we have to do our best to keep cheering them on. There will be a lot of kids we can’t save, but that shouldn’t stop us from saving the ones we can. We make a difference. Whether it’s now or ten years from now, we make a difference.
Be safe. Be healthy.