There’s a little girl who, every day, faithfully boards the school bus headed to MLK Elementary. Dressed by her middle school brother, she leaves behind an empty apartment with a working momma and a missing father. Dirty tennis shoes on her feet and the same pants from earlier in the week, she straps on her torn backpack full of incomplete homework and heads to her safe place – school. As she bounds down the steps of the bus, there to greet her is a smiling teacher who gives her a hug and escorts her to breakfast.
Before the sun is up, an 11th-grader pulls his new car out of the driveway. In the back seat is a Jansport full of bulging notebooks that bear evidence to the two hours of homework he completed last night because today in AP Physics class, they’ll be studying thermodynamics with kinetic theory. As he scurried out the door, his suited father was reading the paper by a bowl of oatmeal and his mom was upstairs primping for an important meeting. His departure went unnoticed. The three are still seething from last night’s argument about his 3.5 GPA and college prospects. He quicksteps it through the doors of Columbus High and heads to the science wing. Awaiting him is a handshake and a welcoming smile.
Across town a young boy wakes up to his momma’s kiss on the forehead. She helps him out of bed, works to get him washed up and dressed, and feeds him his favorite breakfast – scrambled eggs and Cocoa Puffs. A honk at the driveway tells them both it’s time to go, so she helps her most prized treasure up and escorts him to the awaiting bus. Strapped securely in, the driver makes her way to Double Churches Middle, and when they arrive, there is the same joyful face to greet him. His face lights up and he gives her a big bear hug, and the two walk arm in arm to the classroom. Back home, momma prays he has a good day.
If we sat here long enough, we could write the stories of so many of our children who face insurmountable odds, inhumane conditions and indecent situations. We could fill volumes of ink and paper and not even scratch the surface of the hefty burdens our children bring into our schools. And if we stop right there, at the burdens, we will be forever overwhelmed. We would exist in the land of hopelessness and distraught.
But on the other end of these stories, is a teacher. Over the curb at the bus loop, past the front doors and down the hall is a teacher. Always a teacher. No matter the trial, no matter the struggle; no matter the neighborhood, no matter the perspective, there is always a teacher.
The heart and soul of our community wrapped up in the loving, kind, hard-working arms of a teacher. Trustingly, we send the very essence of our being to the open arms of committed, noble teachers who accept our children as they are and strive without waver to take the hurt and mend them, take the broken and fix them, and take the confused and direct them.
Besides the operating table or the church pew, no other place is as much of a sanctuary and a place of healing as the public school classroom. So, bring them. Bring your hurting, your challenged, your behind-grade-levels. Bring your dirty, your troubled, your behavior issues. Bring your pride and joy, your insightful, your gifted. Bring them all and set them in our desks. We’ll take them. And we’ll offer them refuge, safety, kindness and motivation.
Now, imagine that!
Sheryl Green is a secondary educator in Columbus, Georgia. To correspond with Sheryl, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org