Learning From My Former Students

A little after 5:00 this morning I was on my stationary bike and opening up my email. (I should have been at the gym, on the treadmill, with my book on my kindle, but that didn’t happen today.) Riding the stationary bike is a decent workout, but not a great one, but it does allow me to exercise and spend my morning time on email, twitter, FB, and my RSS reader. Which is how I like to spend my mornings before my kids are up.

This is my stationary bike. It folds up nicely when I’m not using it.

Anyway, in the dark, barely awake, I opened my email expecting the typical political spam that dominates my email. That was there. So was an email from a former student. She and I have been writing back and forth for the past few months, although I haven’t heard from her as often now that school has begun. She moved about an hour away near the end of the year she was in my class, a couple of years ago. I was thrilled when she called me at school one day last year and I gave her my email address so we could keep in touch.

The email this morning was short, as they usually are. It was also so hard to read that as soon as I read it I closed it. I couldn’t yet respond. She wrote about a significant challenge in her life and her frustration. I can’t do anything to help her with that challenge, other than be there by email for her. Which feels like nothing. So I closed the email and did other things while I rode.

I did go back and write to her. That wasn’t an email I was willing to let sit any longer than necessary.

It reminded me of one of my kiddos from last year who is having a rough time. She is still at our school and we have a notebook we share. We write to each other almost every day and pass it back and forth. Again, it isn’t much but I feel like I am doing what I can to help her. (She also has an awesome teacher who is doing plenty to help.)

Thinking about these two is hard for me because they are going through so much at such young ages and I feel powerless to help them. As an adult in their lives it feels like I should be able to do more.

But…what about all the other young people who are going through so much but don’t tell us about it? How many of my former students (and current students) are facing immense challenges and keeping them to themselves? How many am I powerless to help because I am blind to their needs?

I am grateful these two girls have advocated for themselves and let us know they are hurting and having difficult times. It allows us to support them in whatever ways we can. My heart breaks for those kids who haven’t shared, for whatever reason.

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