I teach at a private school in a very wealthy suburb of a very wealthy city. We’re by no means the most expensive private school in town, but my students come from comfortable homes. Not every car in the parking lot is nicer than mine, but a lot of them are. My students have warm, dry homes, and there is good food on the table. Now, they may not all get new cars when they turn 16; sometimes, when they break their glasses, they have to wait to get new ones for insurance to pay for it; many of them are concerned about how to pay for college.
But if they don’t get a car, their mom will drop them off at school; if they need glasses, they have them; the one who wants to go to college, will. They are warm and dry and fed and given everything they need to succeed.
They are also well loved. Every teacher in this school is here because they love these kids. We have more parental involvement than I know what to do with – we’re halfway to homeschooling, the parents are so involved. They love their kids and spend time with their kids and help their kids succeed.
I read blogs written by teachers whose students don’t always know where the next meal is coming from, who can’t focus because they’re hungry, who don’t know where they’re going to sleep that night, who are too cold to pay attention in class. It’s easy for me to read those blogs and think about my kids and think about how easy they have it. And in many ways, their lives are easier.
But as I’ve been reminded this week, warm and dry and fed and loved doesn’t mean easy. A student’s one good thing last week was that a friend was learning to stop cutting. I have students that are panicking about today’s test because they find their identity in their academic performance, and the prospect of a bad grade is actually an existential crisis for them.Two students got pulled from class today because of a family emergency. When one of them told me what was going on, I just wanted to cry for them.
I don’t know why this surprises me. It’s not like it was that long ago that I was in high school. I was fed and dry and warm, but there were hard things in life.
And so before I get frustrated with them, I need to remember: while hunger didn’t keep them from doing their homework, depression or anxiety might have. Even though they had lights on at night and could study, they might have been trying to keep a friend alive or saying goodbye.
I need to be more intentional in my compassion and cultivate even more patience.