Originally penned/published July 5, 2011
A month ago or so I had the kids I teach on Saturday mornings fill out notecards, anonymously, to let me know what they like about the class, what kinds of activities they want to do more of, what they want to learn, etc. One of the students took a little longer than the rest, he often does so it didn’t phase me. Then he handed in 2 cards. I didn’t look at any of them, just shoved them in my bag because even though I could probably figure out who’s was who’s, I wanted them to believe that I really wasn’t going to go through them right away and try and remember who’s was who’s. I wanted them to believe in the anonymity of it. And, really, I didn’t think it would matter who’s was who’s, I didn’t imagine any of them would have put anything inappropriate to which I’d need to follow up on.
Anyway, I got home later and looked at them. I found the 2 with the identical handwriting and definitely knew who they belonged to. One card had a list of academic/career/future related things the student wanted to get from the class, which is what I asked for. The other card read, in this exact order: “Food time / Movie Time / Group Discussion.” I laughed to myself, really appreciating this student’s sense of humor.
A couple of weeks later I met with my supervisor to discuss the direction of the program and unexpectedly he revealed a lot of detail about the kids I’ve been teaching and their lives. Now, don’t get me wrong, I never for one moment thought these kids were privileged at all. But when he told me that one of them literally doesn’t always have food to eat, a cold flooded my soul and it became stiff cement.
This was the exact student who 2 weeks prior I chuckled as I read “food time” on his card. “fuck” I thought.” How could I be so unobservant?”
Though, honestly, I’m not going to beat myself up about not seeing this because seriously, since then I’ve invisibly been paying closer attention to that student, and you know what? You’d never fucking know. He’s happy, funny, light spirited just like the others. Yeah, he’s skinny but so is another student who I’m quite positive does not suffer the same kinds of hardships. (Both parents went to college, his uncle is the Exec Director where I work… he lives in a nice house, has his own car… yeah).
It threw me. It really did. These kids are soooooo unassuming. They’re giants under the ruff. I mean it. The things they go through every day and the hard work they put in on top of it! They blow my mind out of my skull.
So I decided to ease back for the summer, lol. Do some enriching activities, stimulate their minds, but pull back on all the hardcore test-taking we’d be doing and just give them some breathing room. AND allow them to grow a little more in a variety of directions and dictate some of their own direction too. I think I owe them that at least. And they definitely deserve it.