Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's been a tough year so far!

This is shaping up to be a tough school year. Two students that were in the other 8th grade Core last year have committed suicide this year. Two of my current students have been hospitalized for suicidal thoughts this year and five students in our school were hospitalized this week. This just terrifies me! We have heard about suicide pacts and I know a lot of our kids are feeling stress.

I think the economy problems must be playing a factor. I know it hurts all of us, but those in poverty situations must find it overwhelming. It is good to see gas prices coming back down, but I know that has caused a great deal of turmoil for many of my families. Food is more expensive and when you can barely feed your family how can you deal with that?

I try to keep my classroom a safe environment so that kids can stick to the task of learning, but they come in with so many things on their minds it’s no wonder they have trouble dealing with English. And that’s if they make it there at all. I had a student missing this week whose family is dealing with a fire in their home. Grandma is currently taking care of 9 grandchildren and they had a fire in their rental home. The oldest grandson awoke and alerted all the family and three of the boys helped get blankets and such and take care of the babies and little ones in the snow while the fire was being put out. Now they are displaced and have no money to survive on. He is supposed to be back in school next week, but only time will tell.

I have another student that has been a handful for a week – picking on other kids and generally just messing around. A few conversations with administration and I have discovered that his younger brother (6th grade) is struggling with cancer. I am certain that my student is worried and also probably not getting much attention at home right now.

Another young man’s house was foreclosed on and he has missed school to help his family move. A young lady had a note intercepted that discussed her first sexual experience. There is one that is struggling because English is not his first language and is not spoken in the home. I know there are several on probation or DSS is involved. My list of IEP students is very long.

Logically, I know that I must continue to keep my classroom a stable and nurturing environment. I know it is often the only constant place in their lives. While I empathize with their problems, education is the best way out for most of them and I must continue to not only give that to them, but to make them see the value in it for their lives.

Emotionally, I am struggling a bit this weekend. I know it is the suicide thing that is bothering me the most. I don’t know how to deal with that. Our two that are back from the hospital concern me. One is acting out a bit and everyone is afraid to come down on her the way we should. One is still in contact with the boy she has the suicide pact with. How much are we supposed to be watching her? And as I look out on the sea of faces, how many others are feeling that death is the only way out right now? What more can I do for them? Our counselor is overloaded and seeing students as fast as she can.

I try very hard to not take this kind of thing home with me, but this weekend it has not given me that option. Worrying about my kids is weighing heavy. Maybe I need to take a suicide prevention class of some sort. (Like I have any more time in my schedule to fit in more stuff.) Maybe something smaller, like some sort of Thanksgiving activity where I tell each of them how thankful I am to have them in my life and why? I don’t know if that would help with the big stuff in their lives, but even though most of them know I care, it never hurts to tell them again and tell them why. Hmmm…. Something to think about!

Thanks for listening to my ramble and I am open to any suggestions for my kids you might have.


Mrs. B said...

What a time you and your students are having! Your kids are lucky to have a teacher who cares so deeply about them as individuals, not just names on the roll sheet.

Your "giving thanks" idea sounds like a great way to let them know yet again how much you care. So many times students move through the day, going through the motions and believing that nobody notices if they are even there. Sometimes something as simple as a "Good Morning" can make all the difference in how a child behaves the rest of the day.

We can't live their lives for them. We can't wave our magic wands and make life simple and safe for them. What we can do is remind them that they have value as human beings, that we see that value and treasure it.

It sounds like you're on the right track. Keep providing a safe environment and letting them see that you care. I know it's hard; keep teaching and caring, but keep part of yourself for yourself. Hang in there, Sherry!

Sharon Elin said...

Sherry, your heartfelt caring is undoubtedly a source of comfort and hope for your students! Continue to reach out and be there for them. Yes, definitely fit in time to take some sort of course or seminar in youth suicide -- regardless of the time challenge. Students need to be emotionally sound before they can ever be truly ready to learn, so this is a priority. We are on the front lines with our kids, and some of their families have no clue how emotionally distraught their kids are feeling. We see it in their behavior and we hear it in the halls, along with hearing it directly from them.

I really like your ideas for expressing thankfulness to them and with them. Gratitude helps everyone turn toward a more selfless attitude and helps us see the positive view despite a negative cloud. We can't cure the ills of the world or the situations that cause stress, but we can teach attitude change! We can promote caring. And we can demonstrate loving kindness by reaching out.

I'm proud to have a colleague and friend in my PLN like you, and I'm praying for your students!