…and then life happened

I had planned a follow-up to my recent Power of Positive Technology post… but then life happened.  The new school year started on a Wednesday, and Thursday night my father died.  He and my mom had been living with us for about five months, waiting to move into their new house.  Dad had been sick for a long time, and we knew the end was near, but I was still (and continue to be) blindsided by grief.  It comes in waves, rolls over me, recedes for awhile, and then – BAM – it’s back.

As I struggled to focus on my work, I thought of how hard it must be for my students to focus and learn new concepts and complete homework and study for tests… when their lives are in chaos.  In my own fog of grief, I would leave work and drive towards the grocery store, knowing we needed food for dinner, but as I approached the parking lot, I would just keep driving toward home.  “I’ll order pizza,” I would think.  I didn’t have the energy to park the car and go into the store.

My students are probably not suffering grief on a regular basis, but from what I read in their journals, there is plenty of chaos in their lives: parents in the throes of divorce, siblings in the angst of adolescence, friends in the midst of middle school drama.  And every year I have a student or two who have recently lost a parent or who lose a parent during the school year.

I want to teach my students to persevere in the face of adversity.  I know that life is hard and they need to learn to keep plugging through the most difficult times.  But I also know that there are days when it’s all we can do to get dressed and make it to class on time.  And my own bout with grief makes me wonder: if all we care about is test scores, what do we expect our children to become?  Are we neglecting their emotional selves?  Are we asking them to be robots?

I don’t have an answer.  But I do know that when grief strikes, it’s all we can do to face the day, not to mention learn a new concept, demonstrate proficiency, perform on demand.

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3 comments

  1. I just discovered this post, and tears are squeezing themselves loose from my eyes and my heart. When my husband Robert died, I found myself crying uncontrollably in public — on the Larkspur/SF ferry (the last time I had been on it, Robert had been with me), in the DMV (I had to show “proof” that he had died), in the locker room at the gym, in Trader Joe’s as I passed the tuna fish he always asked me to pick up. I know well how grief encompasses everything.

    What I don’t understand is how you managed to teach school that week/month, focusing on the young people in front of you, making lesson plans, being Laura Bradley fully for them. I couldn’t have done it. You’re amazing.

  2. Aww, thanks Joan. August and September are a bit of a blur, but I continue to be amazed by how much my students help me through tough times. I barely knew them at that point, and I didn’t share my situation with them, but their enthusiasm for learning and passion for life buoyed me every day. I am grateful for this frustrating, stressful, inspirational career I have.

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