I sat in the corner of the coffee shop swirling my raspberry mocha, waiting for it to cool. Looking up, I was greeted by a familiar face. A former student who held a piece of my heart.
He had graduated the year before and the story he told me shook loose the tears.
“Mrs. Iseminger. Graduation was the worst day of my life. My mom didn’t even stay long enough to hear my name called. I think she left in the H’s. I haven’t seen her since. I don’t even know where my parents are.”
He went on to talk about how he was getting by in the great big world with his great big high school diploma. And I wanted to heave a great big sob.
In recent months, two students have shown up at my classroom door with tears in their eyes, kicked out of their houses. Shuffling between homes of friends while just trying to graduate. No longer living with mothers-gone-wild-breaking-their-children. But what now, Mrs. Iseminger?
Students in our schools are broken. They’re broken pieces from broken backgrounds. Eyes hollow, wondering how to glue and stitch themselves back together realizing Elmer’s can’t fix their problems.
Ask teachers who love their students. Our hearts ache to touch the ripped places in their souls. To help them understand they’re a treasure. To show them they matter. But we don’t always have the tape and the glue and the patch-kits they need.
Sometimes they need you. We need you.
Our schools need you to fight for our students. Not with policies and procedures, rules and regulation. No. We need you to fight with love.
Because have you ever tried to learn with your stomach empty?
Did you ever try to comprehend grammar when all you think about is how you put your alcoholic mother to bed the night before?
What about understanding algebra when your dad invited you to get high with him just yesterday?
Can the history of the world be important to you when you’re wondering how to find a winter coat for your younger brother?
Is biology really as vital as working 30 hours a week to help your parents make rent?
Common Core. Parcc. NCLB. CLAST. Race to the Top. SAT. ACT. End of Course Exams. Teacher Evaluations. Standards. C2Ready?
Not a single one of these policies or tests or acronyms begin to touch the deepest needs of our schools today because our schools have fragmented students who continue to attempt learning in the midst of destitution and dysfunction.
Our students are in a fight and they need you to fight with them. Fight for them.
It’s not a fight to elevate standards. It’s not a fight to send every American boy and girl to college. It’s not a fight to raise internationally competitive test scores.
It’s a fight against poverty. Against abuse. Against neglect. Against brokenness.
It’s a fight we cannot lose.
Because we can’t meet the educational needs of these children without meeting their physical and emotional needs first. Because investing in the lives of our nation’s students is not an option. Because our students are America too.
I need you to fight. I need you to fight for the care and keeping of our country’s children and teenagers. But how? How can you help my students? How can you help ease the sadness in their eyes?
I don’t know.
Oh, how my heart aches to give you a paltry answer. But I just don’t know. I don’t know how to solve their problems with a law or a policy or even with volunteering.
Yet, I do know my students need you. And then I think, maybe this—Love?
Maybe it can begin with love. Not a John-Lennon-Beatles-All-You-Need-Is-Love answer. But then again, maybe so.
Ask any teacher. She will tell you. Struggling students never really learn in a space without love. When my students know I care, they begin to try. They try because love casts a glimmer of hope into their darkness. A flame of light
When last did you love on a child not your own? I know your own are your priority.
When last did you hit your knees praying for the pain and suffering of our children?
Because the fight begins in your heart. Because when your heart breaks over the condition of broken children–it will haunt you. And I need you to be haunted. Because taking the hand of just one, looking in his eyes and showing him he matters, well…that’s a start.
So please, start fighting.
I think I’m begging.
Because teachers, youth pastors, social workers—we can’t do this alone.
We need you.
Our children need you.
They need you to fight.