As I began a Sunday school class today, we begun by chatting about interesting events that took place in the lives of the students over the past week. A girl that has recently begun to come got up and sat in the chair beside me. A few moments later she tilted her head and rested it on my shoulder. At that point I stood up and crossed the room to sit in an empty seat while keeping the conversation going. In some ways my moving could be construed as rude, but the students understood this move because teachers are not allowed to come in contact with students, and most students wouldn’t come in contact with a teacher.
Later in a small group activity my female co-teacher was talking with a small group of students about how their parents had helped them in their lives. When the little girl had the opportunity to talk she described how her father was in jail, her mother had left, and she now lived with her grandma. This information made her previous actions a little more understandable.
In our current world where families are becoming more splintered and society is becoming more distant in their relationships we find many children who are longing for comfort. When they enter our classrooms they are fed, they are protected, and are cared for in ways that many children never experience outside of school. For many students the classroom is the most functional family they will ever experience.
As teachers we can never replace the role of parents in the lives of troubled students. At best, we can be a friend or mentor. Yet, it is completely within our power to fill some of the emotional needs of these students. To show troubled youths that conflict can be resolved, that their existence is important, and that they can have a positive future. These lessons will never show up on our state tests and won’t earn us a bigger paycheck. However, I feel that our investment in the emotional lives of the students we teach will be more important than any other lesson we’ll cover this year.
(In the comments below please tell me how you have touched the lives of students in your classroom.)