The Power of Empathy
On Friday morning I awoke to snow on the ground. I was so incredibly happy to say goodbye to March and what I had hoped was winter that it knocked my mood down a few notches 5 minutes into waking up. As I got ready for school, I had to take Ellie (our therapy dog) out in the freezing cold snow, could not decide what to wear (I have been freezing for weeks) and was running late due to having wipe off my car of thick, heavy, slushy snow.
I proceeded to drive to school where I was stuck in heavy traffic along with school buses. In fact I called the office secretary in fear I might be a few minutes late. Fortunately, I got to school on time. Unfortunately, I noticed my shirt was on inside out. A race to the restroom before Homebase completed my crazy morning. All of this happened by 7:30 AM.
Luckily, I was not too horribly frazzled and instantly immersed myself in teaching and the school day. My first class was extremely understanding and helped me put chairs down and get the room ready for the day. I had planned so I knew exactly what was coming. As the day unfolded I fell into my normal routine of teaching and learning.
However, it made me wonder. How many of our students come to school with invisible "baggage" we know nothing about? As an adult, I had coping strategies to make the best out of a frazzling situation.
What about the student who has to wake up on his or her own? What about the student who has to get himself or herself ready, along with possible siblings, cousins or other children in the house? What about the student who comes to school hungry? Or tired? Or having just witnessed an argument? Or fight? What about the student who was recently yanked out of his or her home and placed in foster care?
Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall
I just finished an incredibly powerful read about a courageous young woman who was sold into slavery, forced to move to the United States with her captors and was freed after a neighbor called the authorities due to an uneasy feeling about what he or she was witnessing at the household.
It was a reminder that some of our students come to us from horrific living conditions. We must always meet them where they are and build those relationships that are so critical to feeling safe and cared for in their learning environment.
We must look outside of ourselves and focus on the student. The more we get to know our students, the more we learn about them which in turn helps us create a comfortable school community. It is so essential to have critical conversations and be empathetic towards our students and families. They may have past experiences we could never imagine.
May all our students find safe, caring adults to love and nurture them.