Today, we have another guest blogger. Jocelyn Burlew is a talented member of Team Character at Mason Intermediate School. In this post, she reflects back on how students may be going through tough times that may be quite invisible to teachers. She emphasizes that teachers building relationships can do much to help those students out. To connect more with Ms. Burlew, catch her on Twitter @MsBurlew. — editors
Second grade: I remember walking home from school with my sixth-grader brother. I remember him telling me, “J, if you ever see those men we just saw driving by again, especially by yourself, you run away as fast as you can.” I didn’t know why my big bro would say this, but I trusted him–the quiver in his voice, the tremble of his hands and the tears in his eyes told me he was being serious. It wasn’t until years later that I understood what that flag, those clothes, and those racist symbols meant.
Thank you, Mr. B., for whispering, “Joc, you can do it! You are aaaawesome! And you belong right here with us.” I so believed you.
Third grade: I remember falling asleep almost every day during third grade. I remember getting detention and notes sent home about my misbehavior. I remember shoving those down the bottom of my backpack, hiding them from my mom. But, I didn’t have to worry. My mom had other things on her mind: like feeding her children and finding them somewhere other than the floor of her mother’s extra bedroom to sleep.
Thank you, counselor-whose-name-I-have-forgotten, for uncrumpling those hidden papers, pulling me into your arms and saying absolutely nothing at all.
Fourth grade: I remember walking into a new classroom in the middle of the year when everyone already had friends. When I was the new girl and no one was really interested in making a new friend.
Thank Mrs. Giuliani, best elementary principal on Earth, for inviting me to have lunch with you. I still remembering snacking as I sat in your rolling chair. Hands down, still the best lunches I’ve ever had.
Fifth grade: It was the first year since first grade that I was in the same school for the entire school year.
Mrs. D. was my teacher. I remember Mrs. D., not for hugs or laughs, but because I was that kid and she was that teacher. I was the kid who did their homework and lost it before they could turn it in. So, I’d sit at my desk and re-do my homework that I’d already did but lost while my classmates played outside. Literally right outside the window in front of me. Mrs. D. would sit impassively at her desk and remind me that I would be in for recess tomorrow, too, if I didn’t finish my work.
I didn’t get to go on our overnight fifth grade field trip to camp. Not because I didn’t want to go. But I’d rather tell everyone that camp was stupid instead of telling them the truth: I peed in the bed and no way would I risk getting made fun of at school if I peed on myself away at camp. And, I was pretty sure I was the person everyone was talking about when they asked, “Who smells like pee?” when I’d ride the bus to school.
Thank you, amazing parents of amazing kids, who raised kiddos with empathy and compassion. Kids who decided not to go to camp either. Who, instead, camped right with me right in my backyard.
Eleventh grade: I don’t remember the second semester of my junior year of high school. I don’t remember the excused homework assignments. But, I do remember the cards, phone calls, hugs and support from teachers and peers as I struggled in the aftermath of my dad’s death.
Thank you, Mrs. Slomer, for letting me get lost in Shakespeare. Mil gracias a Senora Rolf, who let me imagine a world of wonder, who truly set me on my path to world travel.
Every day that I walk into my classroom, I remember. And I give thanks that school gave me, often, what I couldn’t get elsewhere.
And, because I remember, I focus on what really matters: kiddos first, then curriculum.