Archive for September, 2013

Lost Boys and Girls

September 3, 2013

Now some of you who spend time with me might come to the conclusion that I am occasionally sarcastic. Your conclusion would be wildly, amazingly CORRECT. I have lots of sarcasm ready for distribution, because I teach 7th grade. You remember middle school! You recall the insecurity and fear and that menacing monster known as hormones causing you to try to flirt with the opposite sex, usually with disasterous and humiliating results.

Ok that memory is in no way flawed, and has in no way changed. Middle school is still like that. But here’s what you have forgotten perhaps: These small people, these larval stages of adults, are still smart and funny and sweet and full of the EXACT same needs we adults are. You know what their most basic need is? To feel like they are wanted. Perhaps a better way to say it is: they want to feel like they belong.

You see, very few of us really comprehend that about kids. I think we teachers see it clearest when we encounter the inevitable kid who is NOT wanted and who belongs to NOBODY. These kids may have friends, they may be well liked by the teachers… but the secret they carry around is that their own parents don’t want them.

I have always taught in private school, mind, so I don’t see the worst of what happens in poverty. But when a kid is unwanted by his or her parents, it doesn’t matter if there’s a mansion or a hovel to go home to… they still go home to the knowledge that their mom or dad or both couldn’t give a rat’s patoot whether the kid has clean clothes, has his or her homework done, has food… These are the kids who learn silence as a defence mechanism because they’re so afraid of being slammed for the words they try to share. These are the kids who sleep in class because their parents’ fighting all night keeps them awake, because the parents don’t bother hiding the racket. These are the kids who will end up doing drugs and falling away into death or worse… and the mansion-kids will have an easier time falling away because their parents often replace the missing love with cash.

I wish everyone could be like Harry Potter. He was raised by parent figures who made no bones about how much they hated him. He turned out better than ok. He saved the world and had friends, fame and a happy ending. But it is seldom that life imitates art. When it does, it’s usually imitating a Dickens novel. And honestly, speaking as an English teacher, I’d rather rinse my eyeballs with vinegar than read Dickens.

I’d also love to pour that vinegar into the eyes and ears and mouths of those parents who do so much harm to their kids… harm that never even involves laying a hand on them. But apparently that would be illegal. So I let them sleep and I give them a break on their homework and I smile and nod and pray for the kids and hope that inside their twelve, thirteen, fourteen-year-old selves there is an inner Harry, and a store of magic that will help them survive and succeed, and one day never see those horrible grown-up muggles again.

So all you muggle parents and all you magical ones, stop and really listen to your kids. They have good things to say. Are you listening? I hope so. I hope you are not just letting their words come into your ears, but not HEARING them… seeing where you can insert your corrections, your lessons, your “wisdom” to “help” them. Stop it. They are trying to tell you something. Give them the credit they deserve. Help them feel like they are important. You were probably never treated like a human being in 7th grade. Don’t pass that sad tradition on.