Years ago, I was working with a student who was on homebound due to a serious health issue. She was angry at this health issue, and she had every right to be, and snarky and funny and I loved her and loved working with her. One evening, I pulled out the book we were reading together (which we never finished, due to her parents moving to another school district) and she looked at the page, threw her head back, and sighed, “So many words, so many words, so many words!” and I answered back, “I know! Isn’t that awesome?!” because one of our running jokes was how much I loved reading and math and learning new things and how much she hated all of that. [NB: I don’t think she truly hated all of that as much as she hated how hard it was for her to learn these new things. It was the effort, the ridiculous amount of unrelenting work, it took for her to understand even the smallest concept. She did not see the point of all that work. She was going to die at a relatively young age, so why waste precious time on stupid school work? Which is why I was reading a gloriously wonderful book, along with the pretty decent assigned book, with her, because reading a truly good book is never a waste. Never.]
I have that feeling myself these days, though. So many words, hard work, pointlessness. But these are words inside me, not on a page, and there are definitely too many and nowhere for them to go. I’m not a good enough writer to figure them all out, and this isn’t really writing. This is emoting on a computer screen, and I am not a writer, I am a too-much-of-a-talker who bores people with things they never cared about. I tell myself every time I go to a meeting, “Shut up, Grace, no one cares, no one wants to hear what you are thinking, shut up shut up shut up,” and then blammo, before I realize it, I’m just chatting away like the oversharer I am and the people around me have the look of a trapped animal. Oh my God, make her stop. And I want to stop but I don’t. Why? Maddening.
This is a bad time to want to talk, at least for me. Because I don’t have anything good or kind or positive to say. Work has been difficult. Kids being moved from foster placement to foster placement, laws in effect that pit the school district against the department of children’s services, without real guidance from the state on who is right and who should pay for the transportation of these too-often-moved kids and what is in the child’s best interest and what does that even mean when a child has been moved from their home and their family? Talk about a refugee crisis. We have one right in our midst and we don’t even see it. Kids need to be rescued from their homes and they need a safe place to live. Or maybe families need to be rescued from themselves and we don’t know how. There is so much poverty, of material possessions and of emotional health and the ability to parent, there are so many drugs wrecking adults and kids, so much violence which seems to the perpetrator to be satisfying initially but then only leads to more heartbreak and damage for the abused and more spiritual darkness and death for the abuser.
So what IS in the best interests of the child? I fight for what I think that is, for what my checklists and my training and experience and my colleagues agree it is, but in reality, there often isn’t a true ‘best interest.’ That possibility died the minute the abuse and neglect and drugs and bad parenting craziness began. Long before that child even saw a school, the damage has been done. And my amazing fellow teachers, God knows they are trying so hard and working out behavior plans and academic plans for catching these kids up to grade level, plans for recovering credits and hoping for graduation, and they know and I know that what they are really doing is wading through the worst mudslide and rock avalanche ever, trying to pull that kid toward a safe place that may never be found. Yes, I do believe that education for these wounded kids is the best thing we can give them and that education can give them a better adulthood. But I know, I know beyond any doubt, that no matter how good an education we give them, they will be fighting off the pain of their childhood for the rest of their adult lives, no matter how successful they may be by theirs or anyone’s standards. Children are resilient, that maybe be true, but when they become adults, they are still hurt and they are hurt forever. Scars are healed wounds, but the wounds still happened and the damage is still done.
See? Lots of words, but no good ones. Not yet. But then, it’s January, and January is always a tough month, or maybe that’s just me. It will get better. Spring will eventually come. Things always get better once March is in the rearview mirror. And maybe I will figure out a way to get the words out in a better way, a way that actually helps someone and doesn’t make them wish to run away. Or maybe not. Maybe I will finally, finally learn to talk less (much less!), to listen more carefully, and to parse my own sentences down to what is necessary. Maybe I will instead emote here and be quieter in my non-screen life. Maybe. It is January, the time for resolutions to old problems. A girl can dream… in pretty pictures at least, if not in good words.