I am going to let you in on a little secret. I love my Sunday mornings. I get up at 6ish, climb downstairs, make coffee and do the paperwork required by my job. As I work, I listen to Public Radio. Last Sunday morning was perfect. The snow was falling, my house pretty much quiet and I am in the zone of paperwork. Then this line hit me like a ton of bricks:
Brene Brown went on to say:
“And I don’t think our job as parents is to make everything right and perfect and beautiful and true. I think our job is, during struggle, to look at our kids and say, yeah, this is hard and this is tough and you’re hurt.”
I have spent the last week thinking about this. I can handle this idea as a parent. The next day, I watched as my son struggled to climb a huge snow pile. The small struggles my kids face are training grounds for the bigger struggles that life will hold. As hard as it is not to step in, I know I am being a good parent not to fix everything.
In my professional life, this idea of letting others struggle is hard. In my job, I see students figuring out how to tell time, new teachers finding their voice, students figuring out how to pay attention while hurting inside and parents struggling to help their kids to be successful even though they have a lot to worry about. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two types of struggles that occur at my school: Learning Struggles and Struggles that need interventions
Learning struggles are important for the development of character and help cement the learning. I feel that when students are learning something new they need to try to figure it out with proper support. I also feel that as teachers, we need to try new things and model how we approach struggle with our students. If we do this, then students will have skill they need to be successful.
The other group of struggles are harder. These struggles are directly related to poverty. In US schools, poor children are the majority. The student who struggles with the lack of clean underwear. Does she sneak to the nurse without permission so can steal clean underwear or stay in the class and focus on reading with dirty underwear? The student who has been dropped off at a relative and the parent never calls or explains why. The student who arrives at school with moldy clothes. Parents spend their energy to find food and shelter for their family so other things fall away.
When I see these struggles, I do not stand back and let them struggle. I step in and provide students what they need. My school does that. More underwear is bought and the student knows that she can ask the nurse for some. Clean clothes and shoes are always available. Teachers keep healthy snacks in their classroom. We have a food pantry and a weekend food program. We rely on volunteers to mentor children. The PE teacher runs a little league program for our students. I have watched my principal create a safe space for our students to struggle with learning and life, just like my two sweet kids. I hope that every school addresses the poverty issue because it stops kids from being kids.