Heartbreak Elementary

She hid in her hooded sweatshirt all day. Sketched in her sketch book, eyes turned down. All day. Coping. Escaping.

Was her stomach in knots? Did tension pulse in her veins as the noise in the classroom escalated? What will it be this time. . .Another room clear? A fight? A screaming match?

Did her head ache with the pounding of yet another door slam? And what of her classmate, also coping, also escaping. . .with nose in a book.

Up and down the halls kids ran, hiding in corners, roaming. Now in their classroom, now out. Hall passes be damned, no one is checking. . .Besides, one adult can be played against another. And a few great teachers valiantly press on, determined amidst the lack of expectations and structure.

In and out of her classroom came a parade of adults; school staff – unrespected school staff. None could calm the chaos. With shock I realized I, too, was in danger.

I was able to leave. To never go back.  But my heart bleeds for the students who day after day aren’t learning, aren’t growing, aren’t challenged, aren’t protected, aren’t seen.  No, their raucous, rebellious classmates get all the attention – and everything they want.

Those naughty, in-your-face, outspokenly defiant kids make my heart ache in a different way than the upright-on-the-outside, but cowering-on-the-inside kids.  Those cowering silently beg some adult to take control, be in charge, protect them.  Teach them, maybe?

It was clear the decision-making adults in the school had misguided beliefs about their students: They can’t behave.  They can’t learn.  How did they arrive at such erroneous beliefs, even if only subconsciously?  What would you conclude if you were fed a steady diet of “it’s poverty, it’s trauma, it’s drama, it’s their parents fault, it’s culture, it’s poverty, it’s trauma, it’s drama, it’s their parents fault, it’s culture, it’s poverty, it’s this neighborhood, it’s _________”.   It’s excuses.  It’s blaming. It’s misunderstanding discipline.

And it’s led to a complete living tragedy: No kids are behaving. No kids are learning.  Welcome to Heartbreak Elementary, USA.  Courtesy of misguided adults.

Many kids have quite solid home lives. And yes, many are experiencing trauma and chaos and fear at home.  But now, in addition, they are experiencing trauma and chaos and fear at school.

I’m out of tears —

*originally posted in December of 2019

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