Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bleeding Hearts

Teachers are notorious for their bleeding hearts; however, they need to be kept firmly under control. My students have a lot of world experiences I wish they didn’t. For example, I overheard a student say, “Ummmmmm, He’s pretending that he’s smoking weed.” A seven year old shouldn’t even know what weed is, much less know how to pretend smoke it. Frequently moving, rats and mice, utilities being shut on and off, all of these are things that are somewhat common to many of my kids. When they show up to school without a pencil, coat, lunch for the field trip, or whatever, it’s tempting to solve the problem for them. I know it’s not their fault (most of the time), and I understand that they have a lot of other things going on at home. But that doesn’t mean that I need to swoop in and rescue them. That’s not my job. There are ample charities in my community for just those sorts of things.

My job is to educate them, and through education comes empowerment. For example, we’ve been talking about temperature since the beginning of school. As the temperature’s been dropping, I’ve been reminding them that in cold temperatures they have to have a coat to go outside, so they need to make sure they have one. If they tell me that their mom doesn’t have any money, I tell them to get creative and start asking their older neighbors, cousins… for an old coat they’ve outgrown. Eventually, they all come with coats. The ones who have to wait the longest to find them are the ones who are the proudest once they do!

I’m the same way with forgotten school supplies, lunches, you name it. If they don’t have something I put the responsibility on them for figuring out how to get it. We talk it out. We can almost always find a way. My goal is to enable them to tackle their own problems. This is a far greater gift than simply giving them a winter coat.