Cold Night, Warm Heart
I woke up last Monday morning to realize our furnace had stopped working. Immediately, I thought about the inconvenience of being cold, who we would need to contact, and the money we would need to spend to fix it. Although the situation added stress to our life, that night my family and I took advantage of our unique situation by watching a movie in bed under a down blanket as we waited for a new furnace to be installed. During the movie my mind wandered and, unsuspectingly, I gained this perspective: My experience with this dilemma was vastly different than it would have been for the families of many of the kids I serve.
The next day at school I did not tell my students about my “hardship” with the furnace. If I had given them a talk about how my family and I “persevered” through the night, it would have fallen on deaf ears for most of them because something like a broken furnace in their home would be an absolute crisis, rather than a mere inconvenience ending with family movie night in bed. Furthermore, a chilly night at home might not be so rare for some students. You see, I realized that the rules written for me are not the same rules written for the families of many of the children I work with. Assuming we are all in the same boat is detrimental. We need to seek to understand and empathize with our students and react accordingly. A simple inconvenience for us may be something much larger for someone else. We must realize that these stress-inducing crises happen every day for many families even though they come in different, seemingly benign, forms such as paying rent, a flat tire, or even the thought of buying presents for an upcoming holiday. Every additional or unplanned cost can be extremely troubling, or worse. If we do not understand this perspective, we will never reach the kids that need us the most.
In hindsight, if I had chosen to tell my story it would have been purposeful. I would have shared the specific strategies I used to put the situation in perspective instead of overreacting (positive self-talk) and the way I managed my stress instead of taking it out on my family (exercise). If teachers choose to share their adversity, they should do so with student social-emotional growth in mind.
The heat will be on soon at our house and our movie night in bed will soon become family trivia. I challenge myself and all teachers to look at any setback in the home--no matter how small--and put that situation and the feelings that go with it into the home of each child we serve. How would a similar situation affect each individual family? How would the dilemma affect the child at school? How will I, as a teacher, respond to the child tomorrow?