As your kiddos come geared up for the first day of school, here are some things to consider. I know your work load is hard, but please take your time to get to know your students. Especially the ones who seem to be having a harder time. Here’s a bit of my story in which you could see some of the struggles youth face.
My freshman and sophomore years in high school are some of my best memories. I remember best friends, football games with the band, homecoming mums and garters, crushes, competitions, and salsa club. I was having the time of my life!
By the end of my sophomore year, my life had been flipped around and nothing was the same anymore. At the beginning of my junior year, I had to figure out how to care and provide for myself pretty much and I got a job out of necessity. For which I was then kicked out of band for. I had devoted so much time to band, learned two instruments and made every practice/game. But orientation was mandatory and so was practice. But i knew practice wouldn’t help me provide for myself or my siblings when they were with me, so work it was. The band director humiliated me and threatened to strip all my lettermen points away if I missed one practice. I tried to explain that they knew and approved me to have all Fridays off for games and would never make me work until practice was over, but it didn’t matter. In the end I was removed, having one more thing stripped away from me.
So because I didn’t have band anymore, I overworked myself. I worked way more hours then I probably should have but at least I could help buy food and things I needed for school. Sadly sometimes that also meant I fell asleep during class. That also meant I didn’t read like I should have, which my English teacher picked up on. So purposefully, she would call me out in front of others. My face would turn red as I heard the snickers from students who could focus on AP English instead of work. I went from loving English to hating it and soon decided to go down to a basic level English class. Why try?!
My junior year in high school I “lived” in 8 different places. I was being dragged around as my “parent” tried to figure out what they wanted to do. I never really lived in most of those places, as I kept my things in bags. The second to last place I lived, I hardly knew the adults I stayed with. I slept on their couch and I wasn’t allowed to eat their food. I couldn’t focus on my homework as many nights were filled with loud parties. I couldn’t even go to sleep at a good time, because of fear of those strangers being curious of a young girl on the couch. But I would wake up, find a way to school, and do what I needed to do. Eventually my “parent” got us an apartment and things were starting to feel normal again. I tried out for drill team and made it! I was on track to getting my senior year off to a great start, until I was homeless again. Before I knew it I was pushed out of my apartment and forced to live on my own. I moved to a different city. I enrolled into a new school and worked two jobs to try and provide for myself. I was exhausted but kept my gpa to almost a 4.0 with 0 absences.
I ended up moving back to Waco but still had to house share. I found out I was expecting 2 months before graduation. I was exhausted from keeping myself afloat and didn’t see a way, but this is where I share the good experience with my teachers. I had an amazing teacher that pulled me aside when she leaned I was expecting and made me promise I wouldn’t give up on myself. She said she wanted to see me graduate from college because she knew I could! Her words encouraged me when I was at my lowest. And another teacher, I’m not sure who, provided my name to a in school service that supports young moms in high school. They were able to help me sign up for a Doctor and figure out medicaid, which I was clueless about and had no assistance with. They wanted to make sure I still graduated and felt supported as a teen mom. And I did! I graduated with National Honor Society and the Work program cords.
I had so many other teachers in my life who meant so much to me. From my second grade teacher who knew I just needed to be hugged and would allow me to hug her as much as I needed throughout my day. To one of my teachers who most likely reported to CPS, though nothing was done, you still showed me you cared. To the freshman English teacher who believed in my writing so much that you put my writings into competitions, where I won 3rd in STATE! And her heart broke with mine when my parents decided it was too far of a drive to receive recognition at the Texas Ranger game. And the teacher I mentioned earlier, thankfully I still keep up with her through social media. I’m glad she got to see me graduate with honors from college. They saw me. When I was invisible to most, they saw me.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. This wasn’t a blog to say boo hoo look at my life. It was to shine a light on the situations that many students are facing. Not everyone has a stable life. That child who falls asleep on their desk, may be staying at a shelter and they may not feel safe enough to sleep there. The child that doesn’t smell so good, may not have running water or somewhere to wash clothes. You may never know what a child is facing, but please take the time to let them know they are seen. It can make such a difference in their lives. I know my life was forever changed because of the teachers who cared about me. And that’s why I’ll forever respect educators!
Waco ISD and most other districts have now put together programs to help aid the homeless population in students. By the standards released by Waco ISD, I was considered homeless most of my high school education, I didn’t know this. On their website they state:
“Homelessness is defined as having a lack of fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and includes:
- children or youth living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;
- children and youth who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reasons;
- children or youth who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for human beings;
- children or youth living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings.”
I’m attaching the website that Waco ISD has created. There are so many recourses and information listed, please take some time to read them. If you see someone that fits this criteria, find a gentle way to introduce them to the right people and resources, like my teacher above did for me.
Every student deserves an education. Every student deserves to be seen. Every student deserves to feel safe.