A Lesson for the Teacher: A Poem About a Homeless Student
A slow walk into class that day
His head was hanging low.
Good morning Josh, I said to him
He glanced up and whispered hello.
Just a boy of nine,
So much to shoulder
His eyes had lost their glow.
Sadness quickly came over me
As I thought about his life.
I had recently asked, Why is Josh so sad?
My naiveté so clear.
He has no home,
They live in a motel,
No toys or books to call his own.
His mother walks the street at night
He is left to care for his sister.
He helps her with her homework
As he does his own
And tucks both of them into bed,
Just each other to hold.
Tears seized my eyes.
How can this be? It isn’t fair.
He is just a boy, not a man.
I struggle with this new found news
And wonder how this can happen.
Weeks pass by.
I can’t stop thinking
About Josh’s grown up life.
How can a mother
Put such a burden
On a young and precious soul?
The next morning a woman
Enters our class,
A Santa hat upon her head.
Good Morning, she says with a tired smile
I just wanted to say hello.
I looked down to see a timid Josh
Standing by her side.
His arm wrapped affectionately
Around her waist
His love for her transparent.
My son speaks very highly of you
She continues on to say
I just wanted to say thanks.
He is learning so much from you,
We’re glad you are his teacher.
The pleasure is mine.
He brings joy to our class.
He is an intelligent young man.
Her arm tightens around his back
As she pulls him closer to her.
He looks up at his mother,
His face flush with pride and pleasure.
She reaches out her hand to me,
I have to go to work now.
I just got a job at Kmart.
It was nice to meet you,
She says to me and
Kisses the top of Josh’s head.
You too, I say
As she walks out the door.
She waves and Josh waves back.
Where is the monster?
This cannot be her.
She loves him way too much.
She’s trying, I think to myself,
Who am I to condemn?
The teacher learned a lesson that day,
Not to judge others.
We know not what struggles
Each person may face.
Kindness and compassion
Is entitled to all,
That's just simple humanity.
This poem is based on an experience that I actually had while I was student teaching. I was doing my internship in a low socio-economic school in which there was a high percentage of students who received free and reduced lunch. Thirteen years later I still remember it like it was yesterday. It had a great impact on me and it definitely taught me to be more open and compassionate with people in general but more specifically with my students and their families. I now work in an urban school district where many of our families face this issue among many others. I know that this experience prepared me for where I teach today. I think too often teachers only consider what is required of them by their administrators and focus only on getting the job done. It has been my experience that if I make personal connections with my students, I am able to get a lot more out of them each day. It builds a sense of community and trust.
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