I watched as her mother screamed at her brothers in Walmart. She remained in the back of the group, head down, and too ashamed to look up. She was too scared to make a move, or say anything, in fear of being the next victim of a public tongue lashing. The mother continued her rant, used some choice words, and made her way down the aisles making idle threats and shaming her children. I stood there, my heart breaking on the inside, as I watched my student follow her brothers and sisters down the aisle, head down, behind their ranting mother.
I saw, for a quick few seconds, what life was like for one of my students. It opened my eyes to why she acted the way she did in class, why she didn’t want to take chances, and why she didn’t want to speak up in class. It also explained why she didn’t get work done in class. This poor girl was in survival mode. If home was anything like the Walmart scene, I can only imagine what this girl had to endure after school.
Sometimes our classroom is the only safe place students have. Sometimes, academics take a back seat so that students can be given emotional and mental support. If we forget what is most important, we will do more harm than good. Everyone will tell you that reading, writing, and math are important, but not at the cost of a child’s self esteem, self confidence, and self worth. Sometimes we need to be reminded that our students come from homes that don’t have it all together. A child is nothing more than the product of their environment. A child’s demeanor is a good indicator of what life is like outside of school.
It is vital that we remember what is most important; STUDENTS! We need to remember that students come to school with lots of baggage, and that baggage plays a significant role in their overall growth. Everyone has bad days; I am no exception. Teachers get fed up with behaviors, issues, and lack of respect from students. However, we need to remember that these behaviors, issues, and lack of respect are the products of environments outside of the classroom. We need to remember that our students are not out to make our lives difficult, but rather are in need of love, care, patience, and empathy.
When you invest into students, they will respond. Some respond sooner than others, but eventually, all students will respond. Students need to know that they are liked; whether you like them or not. To quote one of my favorite authors, Todd Whitaker, “You don’t need to like all of your students, but you better act like you do.” Students know whether they are liked or not. When students feel loved, liked, and accepted, they are more willing to do what is right and make choices that lead to success.
If you are a parent reading this, please know that your actions, your words, and your attitude will make or break your child. Your child wants nothing more than to be loved and liked by you. They crave your attention and your time. They want to know they mean more to you than your phone, your job, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your time. If you want to see your child succeed, you need to invest into them. If you want your child to be better then you, than be better. Your child should be what’s most important.