Back in our childhood, my best friends, Frankie and Carrie, and I would roam around our neighborhood finding things to keep us entertained. We climbed trees, played games like cops and robbers, built forts and created secret clubs. We loved growing up in the 1980s.
We were gone from sun up to sun down and then had family dinner around the table. We didn’t worry about our bikes getting stolen or who was going to tuck us in at night.
We learned to imagine. We dreamed up make-believe worlds because we played outside and weren’t glued to the television. We learned people skills instead of being addicted to smart phones. We watched our parents work hard for a house and a two-car garage.
The most poignant thing I remember, though, was never, ever being scared.
Now stop and think about the world our kids are growing up in today — a world of internal turmoil and terrorism and fear and hate and injustice, and the list goes on.
But I witnessed something at school the other week that rejuvenated my faith in the power of those good ole days.
There’s a kid I guess you could call a handful. He’s a little defiant without the rudeness and a tad lazy without the attitude. Not a bad kid — just a handful.
I taught him when he was sophomore, and getting him to complete a task was nothing short of an act of Congress, it seemed. When he actually came to school, he was simply disinterested.
I did a little research, and found he was shuffled between family members. Physically abused. Verbally abused. Often left to fend for himself.
Times are different now, and like I’ve always said, teaching in today’s world is so much more than teaching.
My former sophomore is now a senior. Several weeks ago, he received a troubling phone call that the one stable person in his life outside of school, his grandfather, was rushed to the hospital. Desperate, he left class in search of his go-to teacher, who taught him English in eleventh grade. But she was away attending wedding festivities for a family member.
Down the hall, another teacher saw the hopelessness in his eyes and called the go-to teacher.
She arrived at school, all dolled up for a wedding.
They sat with the counselor for a long while, and he was able to come down from the ledge of total despair. In the midst of hysteria, the young man felt the power of a teacher’s compassion.
I certainly dream of those good ole days when kids weren’t faced with such fear and turmoil. Sometimes I wish public schools were isolated from the woes of the world, but they aren’t. I wish the doors of the school building opened up to utopia, unaffected by the evils of our world, but they don’t.
But thankfully, teachers simply care about kids like this young man and the many others faced with baggage we can’t begin to imagine, and they go beyond their call of duty to help.
That willingness should give us all hope that the embers of the good ole days are still glowing, at least in the classrooms of our public schools.
Sheryl Green: email@example.com