Today, I was wishing each of my classes a Happy Thanksgiving. In my monologue to the class, I spoke to how thankful I am for each one of them. I thanked my students for allowing me into their lives as their teacher, for coming to class each day, and for helping me to become a better teacher through honesty and feedback. They listened as I reminded them they are the heart of my job satisfaction and motivation. As the clock ticked to the ringing of the dismissal bell, I exclaimed to all to have a great Thanksgiving and to enjoy the time with their family.
Most of my students, hurried to pack up their binders and run out of class as quickly as possible, imagining the food and video games that lie in their future. As they dashed out, I heard a few, “Happy Thanksgiving Ms. Morey.” More often than not though, they exited as quickly as possible. In response, I started gathering papers and rearranging for my next period of students.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blank stare focused on me. The student was just staring…. an empty stare. We locked eyes and I knew what she was thinking. With a challenged family life, I knew her stare was indicating that she was not excited to leave. She approached me, reached for a hug, and said “Happy Thanksgiving.” I looked at her, and knowing that nothing I could say in the moment would help, simply said, “see you Monday.”
Instantly a quotation fell into my head:
For many students, breaks from school do not equate to time spent with loving families and joyous moments. These students are filled with fear, confusion and sadness that their family moments may be traumatic and hurtful. You can see it in an empty stare, avoidance or outburst when you mention family or extended breaks.
Today it caught me at a moment’s notice and left me speechless. What to say to a student when “Happy Thanksgiving” is not a reality for them? My response of “see you Monday” hopefully communicated that I know her weekend may not be as happy as she hopes it to be. Even if it is not, I will still be waiting Monday morning, with a smile, as I welcome her back to school. For her, school is her place of love and I am comforted in knowing there is a place where she knows she is cared for. It is my hope as a teacher, that she senses the belief I have in her and understands that her current reality does not have to become her destiny.
So… “Happy Thanksgiving students” and also “see you Monday.”