A Sudden Departure: What’s a Teacher to Do?

This week was hard, despite being filled with lots of fun activities that I’d been really looking forward to — making recycled paper with my students and holding a “town hall meeting” about whether we should allow a Thneed shop to open to our town.

The fun was overshadowed, though, for me and my students, by the sudden departure of one of my students on Monday. I was more than aware that she was having a challenging time at home and was also aware that many people and agencies were involved in trying to transform the climate that she was experiencing at home. I also knew that it was a possibility that she would have to move. Despite this, I was not prepared for her to be taken into custody directly from school on Monday.

Telling her to pack up her things because “someone was coming to pick her up,” walking her down the hall and trying not to show how frightening the whole situation was, and then returning to class and trying to keep teaching without crying was one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do in the classroom. It is so frustrating and disheartening to be so intimately involved with my students and to not be able to eradicate the hardships that they face. The sphere of influence of a teacher can sometimes be painfully small — that’s been one of the toughest lessons that I have learned this year.

This situation was extra tough because this is actually the second student that we’ve lost suddenly this year. (And I only had 13 students to begin with!) Seeing this second student leave definitely reopened the wounds and confusion from the first student’s sudden move and I could see my students reeling. We took time to talk about the situation and made cards to send with her things, but it is hard to answer the rightfully-asked “why’s?” of a second grader in a situation where you yourself do not know all of the details.

There seems to be a certain amount of emotional suppression required to keep teaching despite the chaos that surrounds the classroom. I find that if I think too hard about the circumstances in which some of my students find themselves, I feel so defeated and powerless. I really wanted to and purposely chose, to work at a school where students would have challenging situations, but I did not anticipate having to close off some of what my heart feels to keep trying to make that slice of time that I do spend with my students the best that it can possibly be. I know that teaching is important work and see evidence every day that my students are learning lots this year, but still, I want to do more.


4 thoughts on “A Sudden Departure: What’s a Teacher to Do?

  1. Stephanie Dikey April 12, 2014 / 7:54 pm

    OHHH I love this! What a great idea! What grade do you teach again? I am teaching opinion writing and what a great activity for the kids to experience!

    • Cultivating Questioners April 13, 2014 / 10:32 am

      I teach second grade. It was a great activity for opinions — they did a really good job thinking about the opinions of all of the different stakeholders. And thanks for your thoughts about my student. I am hopeful that we’ll be able to reach out to her at her new school — that’s a really great idea.

  2. Stephanie Dikey April 12, 2014 / 7:56 pm

    I am so very sad to hear about your student. I hope there is a way that you can connect with her through her new school. Our hearts break for our children and I can tell you are an amazing and passionate educator!

  3. judymko April 13, 2014 / 11:59 am

    What a tough thing to have to go through. Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher.

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