In 1995 I started teaching in a new school system. I was placed in an inner city classroom that consisted of nine streetwise boys…all of whom had some sort of emotional disturbance. I admit at that time I was naive’. I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Let me just suffice to say that during my two years at this particular school I got bit, spit on, threatened, hit, bruised, called every name imaginable and then some. Unfortunately, my assistant and I had to spend more time keeping order than actual teaching. I learned many lessons during my time at this school, with these particular students. Even though these kids had seen and done things that no child really should have to deal with, or an adult for that matter, I was allowed to catch brief glimpses of the truly young children that they were. One young boy had several members of his large family that were mentally ill. An older brother had “a breakdown” one night and broke every window in the house with a ball bat. Then chased his mother and siblings around the house threatening to kill them….until the mother called for help. The next day when this student came into the classroom he was tired, irritable and angry….and really, who could blame him? His own emotional instability didn’t allow him to process what was going on in his life. I appreciated that I had mental health counselors at my disposal to help with the kids, but I still felt inadequate to even make a dent in this child’s life.
These kids weren’t sweet and lovable like some of the other students I had in the past. They were tough, and closed off. Walls had been built up, long before I came on the scene. To be honest with you I spent a lot of those days tired and totally depleted mentally, physically and emotionally. Early on it struck me that at the end of the day I could go home. Home to a husband that loved me, an infant son, a house in a middle class neighborhood where I didn’t have to concern myself with drive-by’s, drug deals, or gangs. A place where I could be refreshed and where I felt safe. My students didn’t have that privilege. I cried for them. I spent time wondering if having me for a teacher would make any difference at all to them. To this day, I’m still not sure. I like to think I did something positive, but I don’t know. I learned that sometimes life, is difficult, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t. Sometimes we just do the best we can. Then we have to let it go.