It's been about 10 years since I last worked with kids. Left my full-time teaching job (which I adored) to go do something else that I'd always adored but had never explored adequately: the world of theatre.
Fast forward to this school year and I'm back with kids in a part-time capacity. Elementary school students. It's second nature to me. Feels as if I never left. The bulletin boards. The talks with the discipline problem kids. The heartache over the kids who are neglected.
In fact, what's more profound this time around is that heartache.
I find it harder to tolerate now the stories I hear of my students who are getting into trouble because their mom has a new boyfriend and is neglecting her sons and so they bum around the neighborhood and look for ways to be entertained.
Or the sweet kid who's super-streetwise and somehow always has a wad of cash in his pocket and who can't even write a complete correct sentence--even though he's nearing 4th grade.
The kindergartener who says that he wants to kill himself (hang himself, to be exact)--and I wonder if it results from his stuttering problem and how his world reacts to it.
I hate that the kids seem meaner now than 10 years ago. They seem smarter--but they seem so much more entitled.
I'm exhausted today. From two days of investigating and reporting a bullying incident--where the bullied student himself is not so innocent (he's a 5th grade boy--and I've gotten some reports of him calling his "ex" a "slut" and a "backstabber.") These are 5th graders, folks. 10-year olds.
This world has only gotten 10 years uglier, I fear.
Working with children is especially trying. Your heart is pummeled and stretched and at times, torn apart. Only to be pieced back together by the next school day--just in time to be vulnerable again to the wiles of the new day.
Tread slowly and carefully, for you're sure to encounter a story.
And tread gently, for these little souls already have enough harshness in their world.
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