On Friday, I met with a parent of one of my students. This student is new to our school this year, and arrived about a month late. While the family didn't come from far away, if you're looking at a map, they have come a long way emotionally.
What I heard in this meeting has kept me awake all weekend. The weight of this student's shoulders is no match for most adults, although you would never know it. This student is such a happy, smiling, generally well-adjusted kid. The picture and the circumstances and the stories that this parent shared with me just broke my heart, and I realized that this was one of those moments that good teachers talk about... the moments in which you have to remain objective, professional, while still managing to "care" (read, "love").
I will spare most of the details, but instead tell you about the part that has been haunting my thoughts. Mom of student left the father - took her four children and moved out - due to spousal abuse. One day, during school, the father arrived unannounced to have lunch with my student (and perhaps his other children at the school).
It was during this lunch that the father told my student, a 10 year old, to run away from his Mother's new home. He told him what time to leave, where to go, and that he'd pick up his son at that time and location.
What a weight to bear on a 10 year old. I keep replaying what the father must have said, the demands he must have placed, and how the student must have been feeling. Torn, confused, angry, happy to see dad, wondering what was going to happen to the three sisters if... just if....
My demands on this student in the classroom seem so insignificant. Yet still necessary, I know.
This, for this student, is far from over. I could see from the mother where this student gets strength. But ... only 10 years old.
I am writing this in hopes that "talking" about it will let my mind filter out the parts of the story that I need to know, as his educator. Distancing it from my mind, and from me, personally. Here's to hoping.