Monday, February 7, 2011
When you come back to school after an extended period of time, whether planned or unplanned, you get two kinds of reactions.
Reaction number one is kind of like "HEY! How ya doing, Ms. Non-Mommy? High five!"
Reaction number two isn't just spoken. In fact, many times there are no words. You see it all in their faces. They look at you with this hungry, sad look that if it could speak would say "Oh thank God, I'm so happy to see you." They wrap themselves around your waist, or shoulders when they are huge, and hang on for dear life. I know that many schools have a no hug/no touch policy, but screw them. These kids received no affection, no affirmation, nothing positive while they were gone from school. As I hold onto them, I can smell cigarettes, dirty hair, and fried food. While they still hold on, I ask them about their break. I listen to their silly stories. I give them an extra squeeze and tell them that I missed them and was thinking about them. They've just been given their first hug of the day, some of them the first hug in several days.
What they don't tell you now, they will tell you later. Or you'll piece it together. The power was shut off at their house, so they were cold. Someone in their family was arrested. A sibling tried to kill themselves. The one car the family has broke down and no one was able to leave the house for days.
All the while, through these sad stories, I have to act normal, when really I just want to scoop them up and take them home.
In these moments, I alternate between feeling uplifted that they know I care and heart broken that there are such sad, lonely kids out there.
I have 30 and 31 children in each of my classes. I hardly get to see them at all, when you really break down the day. In that one moment, can I convey "I love you. You are not forgotten. I care about you" adequately enough? Is it enough for them?
I can sense it all in their facial expressions, embraces, and stories. Sometimes it is more than I can carry.