Saturday, April 18, 2015

on my heart.

If you haven't read it yet, please take a minute to read this article: I Wish My Teacher Knew. A teacher at a low-income school (very similar to mine) gave her 3rd graders this prompt and was humbled by the responses.

I read the article last night. And ever since then, my students have been weighing heavily on my heart.

In my 4 years of teaching kindergarten, I've been told many things. 5 year olds are pretty candid. Sometimes I'm the only person they feel like they can talk to. I've actually heard the following:

- I don't have a pencil at home to do my homework.
- My dad/stepdad/mom is in jail.
- I don't know who my daddy is.
-Me and my mom and my brother live on my aunty's couch 'cause we don't have money for our own house.
- I don't like me because my mom doesn't like me.
- We don't have a lot of money for food.
- If you flip my card, my mom's gonna hit me with the extension cord when I get home.

The majority of my students come from single-parent homes. Those single parents have to work multiple jobs to make sure they have enough money for food and bills. That means my kids don't see their parents much. I have several students this year who have parents in jail. I have a student who's father committed suicide. One of my little girls told me just yesterday that her mom moved to Atlanta this week, and she doesn't know when she'll see her again. There is a current CPS case open for another one of my girls. I have two students who are sent home with bags of food for the weekend, because they don't have enough food to eat when they're not at school. I have a student who wasn't at school for 3 weeks because they were hiding from the dad. And that's just this year.

I think about my students constantly when I'm not at work. I worry about them. I pray for them.

It's hard, because sometimes I get frustrated when students fall asleep every day in the middle of math because their parents were up screaming all night. When they come to school in August and know NOTHING because their parents never cared enough to work with them. When they seem distracted. When homework never gets completed. When permission slips aren't turned in. When I try to call home and phone numbers are disconnected. When a parent comes to conferences and is clearly on drugs. When they wear the same ketchup-stained uniform shirt every day for a week. I get mad sometimes...a lot actually.

But then I think about what my kids are going through. About WHY their homework is never finished. About WHY they are distracted. About WHY phone numbers are disconnected (because their parent's can't afford the phone bill so the phones are shut off.) About how they move constantly because they can't afford rent and keep getting kicked out of their apartments.

I think about how hard it is for me to focus when I'm tired. When I have to skip lunch to get some work done, so I'm hungry. I get cranky. I get irritable. And I'm 27. This is reality for the majority of my students. And I cannot fathom what they are living on a daily basis. Worrying about whether they'll eat dinner that night. If their mom will wake up in time to drive them to school. If their clothes will get washed so they don't get made fun of. If they'll get to visit their brother in juvie soon. When they'll see their dad again. If their parents even love them.

All these reasons are why I try my best to let my students know they're loved when they're in my care. From the time I greet each one of them by name with a smile in the morning, until that hug before they leave. Sure, teaching is important. And I love that part. But I strive to stay focused on making sure they feel special while they're with me. Because children matter. It's hard to not get caught up in all the test scores, teacher evaluations, and education reform. But in all that chaos, our kids are becoming invisible. I refuse to let that happen in my room.

And why do I always call them "my kids?" Because for 10 months out of a year, they ARE my kids. They ARE my family...and I love them just like they were my own. And once a student has been in my class, he/she will always be one of "my kids," and that's just the way it is.

xoxo, Mrs. Miller


  1. So beautifully written, it brought tears to my eyes and I know that every thing you are saying is so true.
    You are such a good teacher, keep up the good work and keep your faith in your kids. I love you.

  2. Because of our talks I think about your students a lot so I can only imagine how often they are on your mind. I know that the kindness, understanding, patience, stability, guidance and love that you give them means the world to them. I feel for them when they know they are disappointing you because of something out of their control. How sad and maybe even a little scared to to tell you they don't have their homework done....and how you must feel when you have to give them a zero. You know you have to and it is right to...but I'm sure it tears at your heart everytime. Keep up what you are doing. Provide them with what you are able and don't dwell on what is out of your control. I promise what you are giving them is priceless and they will never forget you!!