She Came In With A Bruise
She came in with a bruise on her face. It wasn’t hard to see what had caused it. It was the perfect shape of a large hand. She wasn’t crying at that point. That would come later.
I asked her what happened. “Mom hit me again,” she said, nonchalantly. “I wouldn’t eat my pancakes.”
It saddened me. Just because she wouldn’t eat her breakfast her mother had hit her hard enough to leave a bruise. Why? I know she could have been frustrated. I know she has three more children at home…all under 5. But that doesn’t give her an excuse.
He Had No Coat
He came off the bus smiling. It was 19 degrees outside. He had tennis shoes, jeans with holes in the knees and a long sleeved t-shirt. No coat. No backpack. But he had a smile!
“Where’s your coat?” I asked.
“Couldn’t find it. I think Mom took it away again.” Mom took his coat sometimes to keep him from running away. Sometimes it was the only thing that would keep him at home. This little guy…only five years old…would run away from home to get to school. It was nearly a mile walk. I had to wonder what was going on at home to make him want to run away to school.
He Just Wanted Breakfast
He ran from the bus and into breakfast. He not only took the main dish…a warm waffle today…but he took both of the fruits and the juice, as well. He went into the lunchroom to sit down and eat. Once he had all that gone, he asked if he could have some cereal from the share table. Of course, I told him yes.
“What did you have for supper last night?” I asked him. I didn’t think it would have been much.
“Oh, mommy didn’t wake up. I didn’t have supper. I had some chips then I went to sleep, too. Gosh, I’m hungry!”
This happened way too many times with this little guy. He was tiny, even for a kindergartner. Very thin with circles under his eyes. He looked like he could have stepped out of a Charles Dickenson novel. His mom had back trouble. She took pain pills to relieve the pain. Sometimes…often…she took too many and forgot she had a little boy to take care of.
They All Have Needs
She Came In Crying
She came in crying. Again. Nothing I could do would console her. She cried for nearly an hour. It was hard to do the rest of the group with her crying, but we did it anyway. She finally settled down enough to talk.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Mommy left again. I don’t know why she leaves all the time. Why doesn’t she love me?” Her mom and dad were always fighting. When Mom couldn’t handle she would leave. Often she would come home drunk, or, like today, not come home at all.
She Had Her Own Problems
She was smiling. She always did. She worked hard. Harder than most kids her age. But she never seemed to get it. Just never seemed to understand. Partly because she didn’t speak English very well. Her mom and dad had just come to Kansas from Mexico a year or so ago. They didn’t speak English very well, either. They were afraid to take any classes. They were afraid they would be deported. They had crossed over the border illegally because they just couldn’t let their daughter grow up in their hometown. She would either be killed or sold into sex slavery. At least that’s what they were afraid of. And it could very well be true.
Who Deserves It More?
These are just some of my students. These five year olds come to school with all of this on their minds…some of them with so much more. Yet, they are expected to learn. They are expected to learn as quickly as the student who has two parents who love him with a warm home and maybe a pet or two. They are expected to learn as much as the kids with full tummies. As fast as the ones who know where they will sleep tonight and who know their parents will be waiting for them with a hug and not a slap.
These students give it their all. Some give more than others, but don’t believe for a minute that just because one gives more than another, that means the other doesn’t care as much. Doesn’t want to do as good. Because they all want to do their best…and they are all doing the best they can under the circumstances.
Don't They Deserve It More?
Prisons or Schools?
Something needs to change. My stepfather molested three young women…ages 13 to 24. He is in prison with three warm meals, a warm bed and plenty of exercise and routine. My students can’t count on that. They go hungry and homeless. They have no one caring for them in some cases. Yet, someone who breaks the law and does horrible things to kids has it made. He even has cable television and access to education and things some of my students will never have. He doesn’t have to worry about his electricity getting turned off. He doesn’t have to worry about going hungry. My students do.
If we would change things around and give the money that we give to prisons to children in need, we may not need prisons one day. At least not as many. When we decide to make children our priority and not an afterthought, we may have hope for our future.
Now, I know money isn’t going to help the little girl who is getting beat up by her mother. But maybe if mom had a job or counseling or enough money to care for her children, she wouldn’t be stressed out enough to hit her child. Maybe if our health system were better, instead of throwing drugs at a problem and causing people to become addicted to them, people could be given proper health care. If our mental health system were better, maybe we could find out why a little boy would rather run away from home in the cold than stay with a mother who supposedly loves and cares for him. Maybe if our immigration system were fixed, parents could get the education they need so that their children could get the education they need. Maybe, maybe, maybe….
Maybe one of these days, I’ll have all the answers…