November is traditionally a time of reflections on one’s blessings, and as I think about this school year, it has been full of ups and downs and in only been 13 weeks. One of the biggest challenges is seeing children bear such heavy burdens. Whether it is a parent’s illness, physical/emotional abuse or neglect, the loss of a parent through family separation or death, or just the stress of poverty and the worry that comes with it about one’s basic needs being met, it is hard to see children suffering. Add to this mix teachers who have their own personal stressors and a nation of unrest in a highly polarized political climate. Forget the typical school challenges full moons and holidays, folks; we are talking about real trauma.
Supporting children living with trauma can be a challenge. They bring it in the door. Trauma may not be visible, but a child in trauma will let you know immediately if they are suffering. With their actions, their words, their lack of connection, they will let you know. They fight, they run, they shut down. Children in the most need of love often ask for it in the most unlovable ways. It can be exhausting for those responsible for providing “trauma care” much less a high-quality education. One could easily lose hope.
However, I have learned so much from supporting children of today. If you can make that connection, create that bond, make the child feel safe, there is no better feeling in the world. When you watch a teacher persist to form a relationship despite multiple attempts by the student to push them away, there is a sense of pride to be a part of an organization that puts first things first.
I have learned that it is in the most difficult circumstances that the biggest blessings are revealed. We can be grateful for the challenges and know that they are helping develop our character into who we are meant to be, or we can feel mistreated.
We always have a choice. We can feel wronged, or we can be grateful for the challenges and know that they are tied to a greater purpose. We can worry about the difficulties we face, or we can choose to feel blessed knowing that we will never be given more than we can handle. We can grieve the things we do not have, or we choose to see the abundance of our lives and all the opportunities that lay before us. Thankful isn’t something that happens, it’s something you do on purpose. And when we choose gratitude, it becomes impossible to feel stressed. They are two emotions that cannot exist at the same time.
So while it is difficult to see children suffer, I choose to be thankful that I get to be a positive force in their lives. While sometimes the behavior of these students can be beyond difficult, I am blessed to have a staff willing to learn about trauma and utilize trauma-sensitive practices to support these students. While there are many times I have pondered thoughts of “if I just had more… (time, money, staff, parent involvement, resources)”, I know that in my district and community, I have an abundance of support and trust to make decisions that are best for our children, not just a few, but all of them. While it would be easy to lose faith facing such challenging circumstances, I choose to have grit and hope in the future of public education and how we can teach children coping strategies and value for each other in addition to reading, writing, and math. I am blessed. I am thankful. Are you? It’s your choice.