The Rest of the Child

A Child looking out the door.
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There’s more to each child than meets the eye.

As a teacher I’ve spent much of my career working with kids others would call a “problem child.”  My degree is in Special Education for students with emotional impairments.   I mostly taught in detention facilities and alternative schools.

Teachers don’t often get the whole picture of who a child is.  The places I worked let me do that.  It’s unfortunate that this can’t be done in regular schools where teachers are overwhelmed with large class sizes and ever increasing responsibilities.  These teachers know there’s more to each child than meets the eye, but rarely get to see it.

One kid comes to mind.  In the interest of protecting his privacy, I’ll call him Sam.  I taught Sam at an alternative school.  Sam was a skinny young man who was always wearing a beanie.  He seemed permanently attached to his iPhone and was always listening to music in his headphones.

Now let me tell you how another teacher knew Sam before I tell you more about him.  Sam was in alternative school because of a confrontation with his teacher.  His teacher saw Sam in the back of the room with his headphones on and asked him to take them out.  Sam refused.  The teacher – making a really poor decision here- yanked the headphones out of Sam’s ears.  Sam reacted in an equally poor way.  He stood up and shoved his teacher.  This teacher knew Sam as a rude, distracted, jerk of a kid.  He didn’t really know him.

Here’s the rest of Sam’s story.  Sam’s parents are drug users.  They stay up late partying and don’t let Sam get much rest.  Sam also has a new baby brother who is not well taken care of.  Sam often takes care of his brother when his parents are too high to do it.

When Sam comes to school, he’s exhausted.  The music, he told me, is part of what keeps him awake.  It also soothes his nerves and lets him zone out of the challenging world he lives in.

After school, Sam goes to work at a pretzel shop in the mall.  He’s a great employee and has been promoted.  At the end of the shift there are pretzels that cannot be sold the next day.  Instead of throwing them out, Sam bags them and takes them to the runaway shelter across town.  He does this every day, then goes home to chaos and exhaustion again.

Yes, Sam is a kid who shoved his teacher.  But that’s not all he is, and it’s too bad more people can’t see it.







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