That student sitting in row 2 seat 7 was up all night worrying that she might have a diabetic low in her sleep and slip into a coma. She's there in your classroom after a sleepless night with a disease that makes her feel like she's on a rollercoaster this week. She's drained, her concentration ability is lacking but she fears missing school for getting behind and doesn't want to be alone at home and not have someone to notice if her blood sugar drops unexpectedly like it has been for the last 3 days. She's coping.
That student sitting in row 5 seat 2 is hungry. Maybe it's her own fault because she waited until the last minute to get out of bed so she didn't eat before school, maybe she has an eating disorder and won't eat like she should. Or maybe there just isn't much food at the house. Whatever the reason, her hunger makes it hard for her to concentrate and her growling tummy makes everyone else giggle. She fake laughs along with everyone else about the growling but the truth is just under the surface- she's hungry when she comes to school on a very regular basis.
That student in row 7 seat 7 heard her parents arguing with her big brother way after everyone should be in bed. She felt the tension in the family. She felt the animosity of her sibling. She just wants everything to be ok in the family but she laid in bed last night realizing things just weren't right in her world. She wonders what the future looks like within her family dynamics. She fears. She comes to class insecure and quiet.
That student in row 1 seat 3 forgot to take her ADHD medication this morning. She's trying so very hard to follow along in the lesson but the bottom line is that it is super hard. She really is trying to use her skills she has learned to stay focused but today, it just doesn't seem enough. School seems exceptionally hard. Life seems exceptionally unfair. She has to spend a large portion of her day sitting at a desk being still when everything inside of her needs movement. She thinks school isn't for her. She can't wait to get out so she can do the things she is good at.
That student in row 4 seat 6 is excited about going to the jump park with her friends after school. It's her birthday and she's been waiting on this Friday for 3 weeks. It's going to be such an amazingly fun time to be with her friends. Every chance she gets, she and her friends are discussing and planning the evening- she's even secretly messaging them on her device instead of paying attention to you when she should. She just wants this school day to end! She tells herself she'll do better on Monday at being engaged in the classroom but today all she can think about is her birthday party.
That student in row 3 seat 1 has a Grandpa that has cancer. He's at home, down the street and she sees him on a regular basis but everyday she wonders when will be the last day he is around. He is an important part of her life. Losing him will be hard, even though she knows death eventually happens to everyone. It makes her think about life, living, death, and the beyond. She gets a little morose and feels disconnected to those around her because "caring" hurts sometimes. To you, she seems hard and bullyish, really she's just trying to make sense of her world.
That student in row 6 seat 4 has a secret. Last night her mom got taken to jail. It was bound to happen, the mom will do anything to support her drug and alcohol addiction. Your student doesn't want anyone to know- she feels ashamed that this is her family. She doesn't understand that sharing with someone might help her deal with things better. She is slipping into a state of depression. She asks, "why was I born into THIS family?" Things that once mattered don't matter anymore. She's not sure why things have changed and how to make it any different. She's just existing yet she always feels anxious.
In the above scenario, in each row there is one child struggling with significant life events- some good, some bad, some "normal" but all have the ability to change the dynamics of their learning opportunities. In the above cases, every one of the thoughts came from someone in my immediate or extended family. The "real life" of our students touches us all.
Every day our students come into our school buildings living a life beyond your classroom walls. While school is a large portion of a student's day (school learning/events, etc takes up anywhere between 50- 60% of the average students daily "awake" time), their out of classroom experiences have a magnified effect on their learning potential for any given day. Let us be mindful to see our students as individuals each day. Let us show grace, forgiveness, even some tough love, and help students find a path to success- not just academically but also emotionally and personally. Let us teach the whole child by knowing the whole child. Let being an educator never just become a "job" for us. Let us strive to be difference makers in spite of and because of all the extra issues.