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A Lesson for the Teacher: A Poem About a Homeless Student

Updated on March 10, 2012

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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    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Wow Greg, that's a really nice compliment! It is so hard because those who make such important decisions for our youth are often not the ones that know what's best for them. Thank you so much for stopping by.

    • Greg Horlacher profile image

      Greg Horlacher 

      8 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      I wish we could get Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and Bill Gates to read this.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      I agree travelespresso, and an ongoing lesson at that. I'm glad to hear that the poem touched you and I am grateful for your kind comments. Thanks so much for your visit.

    • travelespresso profile image


      9 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      This bought tears to my eyes. Not being judgemental is a lesson many of us need to learn. Certainly I do and it's one I need to learn and re-learn. Thank you so much for writing this very touching poem and, more importantly, publishing it for us to share.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      It truly is teachertalking1 and I too have continued to have "Josh's" come through my doors as well. I believe that I have been blessed with the gift to teach however that is not what I do any more. There are so many things that are both national, but also those that are unique to my district and the way certain things are handled that prevent me from being a teacher in the top 10 roles of my day. It is very unfortunate and I wish it were different. I do know that the right door will open for me at the right time and I don't discount the idea that it may still involve teaching in some capacity. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • teachertalking1 profile image


      9 years ago

      Such a great article! I have had many "Josh's" come through my classroom doors as well. So humbling to see the world through the eyes of a child faced with so many grownup burdens! I agree that teaching can be emotional draining, but truly believe that if you have been blessed with the gift to positively impact students - academically, socially and emotionally that you are exactly where you're meant to be! With that said, if you find this gift fading, listen to your heart and it will guide you to your next chapter in life!

      Thanks for sharing Josh with us!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Teaching with at risk children seems to be much more challenging in these last few years. I'm not sure if it's because of the large decline of the economy or the increase in media "give me" mentality or a combination. In any case it leads to much physical and emotional exhaustion among teachers. I could tell stories that would make people's heads spin. I'm glad that my hub could reignite that flame for you. I'm not sure after 15 years that I can continue at this pace much longer. It is very overwhelming. Thanks so much for your comments and best of luck to you. Know that are not alone.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      9 years ago from Western NC

      I had to read this, clicking from your other hub, "My First Year with HubPages". I'm a teacher in a low-income district. And as much as I love it, sometimes the passion seems to fade in the face of so much adversity. But your story helps to reignite that flame. :)

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks so much MissOlive. It is an ongoing lesson for me as well. Teachers bear much more than the media publicizes. It is a wonderful but often times exhausting profession. Thanks for your kind words.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      9 years ago from Texas

      cardelean -

      Your poem is amazing - your inspiration raw and true - your message is heartfelt. Learning about my students' home lives and difficult situations has been a lesson for me time after time. I've witnessed many silent heros help them along the way.

      Thank you for sharing your story and the amazing lesson within. Well deserving of the HubNugget.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Oh, that is so nice to hear Yaduvanshi. Thanks for your kind words.

    • Yaduvanshi profile image


      9 years ago from Bharat Vrse

      It touched me at heart

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you Millionaire Tips. I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      It is a beautiful poem and story. Very touching - well done.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Sounds like you are a wonderful teacher and parent Teresa. It is amazing the lessons that life teaches you early on so that you are ready for it when the time comes to use those skills. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      As a fellow teacher, I have had similar experiences even earlier in my career. All of these make us more compassionate and tolerant. All students enrich our lives and in some ways make us better parents when the time comes. I taught many children in an innercity highschool who faced tremendous academic struggles. When my oldest son experienced many of these same struggles I was will equipped to deal with them and help him reach the independent, well adjusted and successful student he is today. Great hub Cardelean. It brought tears to my eyes also!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks so much for your comments miccimom. I agree that there really needs to be more done for families/children in need. With the population of students that I teach, they are working class families who are barely living pay check to pay check. I try to provide love and comfort to them in my classroom because often they do not receive that at home either. I appreciate you taking the time to read.

    • miccimom profile image


      9 years ago from U.S.A

      This was a touching story. I think that alot of us are guilty of judging before we know the whole story. I wish there was more that our country could do for the families that literally stuggle day by day to provide basics like food and clothes for the children. Sometimes when families dig themselve in a whole, by no fault of their own, it is soo hard to get out. But I believe as long as the parents love is there, and there is a good partnership with the teacher, the child could learn alot and get alot in school. Great writing!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Glad you enjoyed it NyokaKi. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • NyokaKi profile image


      9 years ago from Perdido Bay


    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      I'm am glad to have had this experience early in my career as a teacher and know first hand as you say of those who work as teachers and are very judgmental. Unfortunately it is not a job requirement and is really a life skill. If you are not taught that through either the adults in your life or have had an experience like this then many people will act as they have been taught.

      I really was raised to not be judgmental but I believe that it is human nature to a degree. We as humans need to continually reflect on and better ourselves in this way. Thank you for your insight and sharing your own experiences Beautiful dreamer.

    • profile image

      beautiful dreamer 

      9 years ago

      I discovered this hub recently and have read it a few times without comment. I'm commenting because although you appear to be open to learning the lesson of not judging what you do not know and do not understand, the attitude which you displayed in the beginning is actually quite prevalent in schools throughout the U.S. Many kids are treated as "less than." It's great to quote His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but as he points out, compassion is increased through practice. Perhaps the kids in your classroom are benefiting from this lesson that all teachers should learn and never forget, but what about others in your school?

      I'm glad that you wrote this and even had the courage to admit your unkind outlook, and I hope that you continue to apply the insight you have gained in all areas of your life.

      I come from a long line of teachers, and I have switched to tutoring, at which I am very successful and fulfilled, because the unfair attitude of so many teachers is truly rampant.

      Best wishes.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you, I agree children are a blessing and a valuable resource in our world. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • wisejargon profile image


      10 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      Wonderful post. Lots of great thoughts.

      Children are a blessing from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the quiver of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. (Psalm 127:3-4).

      Your article is one of those items that reminds us that we have a responsibility of making straight arrows out of the children in our lives!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Attemptedhumor-I learn from my students and their families all of the time. It is part of my practice in my classroom and my home to treat children as equals. I do not know everything just because I am the grown up. Thanks for reading! Cheers.

      ACSutliff-Thank you so much. Yes, I am still teaching although each year there are more and more challenges. Do you still teach? Thanks for commenting!

      My Estoeric-What a compliment! I have never viewed myself as a poet, in fact this is the first poem that I've ever really written for something other than a class. Thanks for boost of confidence :)

    • My Esoteric profile image

      Scott Belford 

      10 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Beautiful Cardelean, I have become your student as I try to learn to write poetry. You've created the wonderful variations in emotion I seek to express for the subject I am writing about. Congratulations!

    • ACSutliff profile image


      10 years ago

      Wonderful thoughts! You have captured what it means to be a teacher beautifully. I learn from my students almost every day. And I know from experience, those personal connections are like gold in the classroom. It sounds like we had a very similar student teaching experience. Are you still teaching? Wishing you the best....


    • attemptedhumour profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      Hi cardelean, what a wonderful poem. You did learn a great deal from Josh and his mother, that would no doubt have rubbed off on many more kids struggling through life. Josh will remember you too, because you treated him as an equal. Cheers

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you! I appreciate all of the accolades.

      SD-It is so important to not be judgemental although hard at times since we are after all human. Thanks for reading and commmenting.

    • S.D. Stephenson profile image

      S.D. Stephenson 

      10 years ago from Brooklyn New York

      I also work with children and it breaks my heart to learn of some of the situations they deal with at home. I too have learned not to be judgmental, especially to towards the "problem kids".

    • Silver Fish profile image

      Silver Fish 

      10 years ago from Edinburgh Scotland

      Beautiful, thank you.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Cara-I am so happy and proud of you. Congratulations on your hubnugget award! Woo hoo. Well deserved. Love you. X0

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks HBN! I appreciate the kind words of encouragement. I'm definately enjoying my start here on hubpages.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      Congratulations on your HubNugget award! I'm so glad to see that people are recognizing the quality of your writing, especially on the important topic of teaching. You're off to a great start on HubPages!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you RTalloni. I believe that honesty is important for us to grow. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Bravo for sharing this with us honestly, and for encouraging us all to learn from your experience. Children need more teachers like you.

    • chisom emmanuel profile image

      oji chisom emmanuel 

      10 years ago from NIGERIA

      a very thoughtful poem, its is just to jugde but rigthoeus to be a good teacher and gladlyin life we learn from each

    • sofs profile image


      10 years ago

      A touching poem with a wonderful message. Oh, how often we jump to conclusions, declare guilty and condemn before they have had a chance to defend themselves. Well done!!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you Josey, I'm glad you did too. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Joesy Shmoesy profile image

      Joesy Shmoesy 

      10 years ago from New England

      Great poem and story. I am glad that I found it.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      You're welcome, glad you enjoyed it.

    • SUSANJK profile image


      10 years ago from Florida

      A beautiful poem, thanks

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you. I agree, more compassion would make the world a much more pleasant place to be.

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Reno 

      10 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. We can all use more compassion in our lives. Great poem. Thanks for writing.


    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Wow, thanks for all of the positive feedback. I am truly grateful and overwhelmed. I only wish my administrators recognized this too! Thank you all for reading and commenting.

    • escribir profile image


      10 years ago

      Warm and compassionate, a lovely read thanks

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 

      10 years ago from New England

      A very touching poem, indeed. I commend you for your passionate writing, and voted for this hub to win the hubnugget award. You shed light on such an important message...the compassion that is needed on a global level by everyone, given to one another one day at a time.

      Your experience and your open heart will pave the way for you to become a great teacher (which you are well on the way to be), for touching the children we teach will be the only way we will be effective teachers. I hope that this potential is recognized by your school's administrators, too. It seems to be appreciated by your students' parents. :0)

    • profile image

      Nedra Rohrer 

      10 years ago

      A great poem with such a powerful message - FOR EVERYBODY.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a very touching poem with a great message for all of us to not be judgmental. Very good hub.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you Monica, I try!

      Madeedair, what a great way to help out a school. The media is so critical of what teachers do but not many people are willing to help out. Thanks for the comments and for helping your community!

      Richtwf, thank you for taking the time to read the poem and comment. God bless you too!

    • MonicaRobinson profile image


      10 years ago

      Great poem! I have fond memories of a few teachers, they can and do make a difference! How easy it is to make those judgments, but to show compassion, love and understanding is what can bridge that gap. Good luck in your writings.

    • richtwf profile image


      10 years ago

      A beautiful poem with an excellent message conveyed to all that we should not rise to the temptation of jumping quickly to conclusions.

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful story and God bless.

    • Mandeeadair profile image


      10 years ago from California

      Beautiful! I just started helping out in an afterschool program, and this really touched home, it is very important not to judge until you know the facts and your poem is a great example of that because we have all been in that situation at one point or another. Thank you, and thank you for the reminder :)!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank fetty, I very much believe that the classroom is a mutual learning environment. Thanks for stopping by.

    • fetty profile image


      10 years ago from South Jersey

      The successful teacher learns something new everyday from her/his pupils. You already know this. Your poem was glowing with compassion . Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. Best wishes in your career.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you clean life for the encouraging comments and the vote!

    • the clean life profile image

      Mark Bruno 

      10 years ago from New Jersey Shore

      Cara, what a beautiful and very touching poem and so well written too! A big Congratulations to you for your nomination to Hubnuggets !!

      One more Vote for you. Great Job!

      Well done !!!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Cara-Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. It is a beautiful story and deserves the win. You've got my vote!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you ripplemaker, both for the congrats and the touching reply. I try to keep that light shining although somedays it is dim. I have checked out your link and am reading and voting!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      As we teach so we also learn. I really truly enjoyed your hub and your story. A very heartwarming inspiring one! Blessings to you...keep on shining your light!

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Please check this out and join the Hubnuggets fun!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you travel_man, I also am saddened by this. Unfortunately it is human nature to be judgemental, we all must work to overcome this. Thank you for the visit.

      Elayne001 kudos to you in your tutoring. It is a tough job to work at getting kids where they need to be academically. Thank you for the kind words.

    • elayne001 profile image


      10 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I tutor disadvantaged children and they are so eager to learn and appreciate what they get. I enjoyed your hub. Well written and touching.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      10 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I was saddened by the plight of children, like Josh. People are judgmental; but I have high regards for teachers. Their sympathy over their pupils are overwhelming.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for all of the feedback. I actually had tears writing this and often think about him and wonder where he is and what he is doing. Happyboomernurse, thanks for the suggestions, I will check them out.

    • profile image

      Sarah Webster 

      10 years ago

      Beautiful hub! Such a poignant reminder for all teachers. We often forget about the lives our students live outside the classroom. Thank you for sharing this story. It was very beautifully written.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Cara-wow! Well written. I was teary eyed the whole way through. It tells a beautiful story and lesson learned. That's what makes it so special-the evidence of compassion and a heart that opened wider than before. Beautiful. PS-I love the tender photo of the heart made form tiny feet and loving hands. :)

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      This poem was so tender that it brought tears to my eyes. You are obviously a compassionate teacher and the type of dedication you already exhibit to teaching seems more like a calling, not just a job or profession.

      There is a hubber called Reynold Jay who writes beautiful stories about teaching. You may enjoy reading 2 of his hubs:Ben & Quantum Leap: Special Needs Story," and "The Little Chat with Mrs. Causey: A Story of the Mentally & Physically Challenged."

      I voted your hub up, useful, awesome and beautiful!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      10 years ago from Illinois

      What a touching poem and compassion is something most of us need more of. Nice hub.


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