It’s that time again. You are likely a mixture of excited and nervous for your upcoming class.
I know that being a teacher is so much more than the hours of teaching you do each day, and you’re basically raising this next generation, so I hope you hear my words with grace. Most of you seem to have a deep well of passion for teaching and educating our kids, and I believe your intentions stem from the best kind.
As you juggle one million things this next month, I am throwing a few more things at you to think about. Maybe you’re already thinking about these things, but just in case you’re not, they’re really important to me – so I’m going to share.
I’m a mom to two 3-year-old’s. But I also mother a second grader and a fourth grader. Last year I mothered a third grader and a headstart/preschooler. All these kids come to school with their own tricky baggage you likely won’t see on the surface.
You see, the kids I brought to school every day last year? They come from a really, really hard place. They come from abuse and neglect. I’m talking really intense abuse, the kind you think can’t be real. But you actually wouldn’t know this about them, unless you read their intensive case files or talked to their therapists (neither of which are legal) or became their temporary mom. Instead, they look like pretty typical kids with normal childhoods.
But they aren’t typical, and their childhoods aren’t normal.
They come to school from someone they just met, whether last night or last year — either way, we didn’t start together. We only came together after so much trauma and loss and pain.
When they are flinching from the stapler dropping on the floor, it isn’t actually because they are ‘cute and jumpy,’ it’s because their brains weren’t sure if you were trying to throw something at them. So they duck for cover.
When they begin yelling and screaming and possibly become violent, it’s not because they are spoiled brats who always get their way…it’s because
1. they were not taught how to handle their big emotions or work through conflict
2. their bodies are in a survival mode.
You’ve heard of — any maybe even teach it — the responses to threat: fight or flight? There is also freeze.
One of my kids responds with ‘freeze.’ She withdraws and is not able to speak. When she freezes it sometimes lasts hours…sometimes it lasts days. In fact, her whole first three months with us she was essentially nonverbal.
Her eyes grow wide and her voice silences, frozen by the mere desire to survive. It can be frustrating, especially when all you’re asking her is what she wants to color with. But it’s how she’s trained herself to survive: flee within herself and attempt to become invisible.
I share these things because so many kids come from hard places; stories and journeys we couldn’t even fathom. Their behaviors are often tied to trauma of some form, not being spoiled. Their development is typically behind, their emotional age only half their chronological age. Foster care is a big mess of trauma.