Another school year in the books, another crop of little souls taught, grown, and raised as best I could on their way to young adulthood.
Another crop will be coming, and even though I’m running new plans for the new school year in my head, that’s still two and a half months away.
And no summer school for me.
Time to rest my body and mind and nourish them with other projects and passions.
They were a good group of kids. They always are.
But then again, there are no bad kids.
Let me repeat that.
Let me be clear.
There are no bad kids.
I don’t believe in “bad kids” as a label or a term, same way as I don’t believe in “stupid,” or “dumb,” – just as the ignorant and ill-informed nuns called me at Mary Help.
They didn’t know that perhaps I had mild ADHD, that perhaps I had Major Depressive Disorder – What child had that? Children are simple things. Simple things with simple minds that are meant to be programmed, like robots. If they didn’t comply – they were bad. So, mental illnesses, cognitive impairment? That thought didn’t even cross their mind. The science wasn’t there, the word wasn’t spread. The educators were not educated.
It was basic binary.
Black or white.
Good or bad.
Bad kids – That’s a term coined by dull, lazy adults for children who don’t do as they’re told because what they’re being told to do is either overly-controlling or too simplistic for the child who needs to know the why of a thing, and if explained properly, just might be satisfied with the answers.
That term originates from that same dull dark place in our collective human consciousness where bigotry and racism are birthed. The dark, primitive heart of our minds that recognized only that binary signal that was necessary for our survival as a species when we first set out from Africa those many ages ago – friend or foe, safety or danger, good or bad …
Right and wrong
White and black.
Good and bad.
That is not quantifiable.
That is not measurable.
That was then. We are in the now. There is science. There are studies. The brain is an organ, susceptible to illness just like any other in our bodies.
I believe in mental illnesses that may affect or impair cognitive function.
I believe in minds, spirits, or souls that have been broken, either knowingly or unknowingly, by their toxic parents or guardians who themselves were broken by their parents or guardians, or by traumas far worse and that occur all too frequently.
I believe that every young mind is a puzzle waiting to be solved, in order for that mind to be open to learning. And it takes skill to solve it. It takes patience. It takes cleverness and intelligence and love and care and just a little bit of humor.
But love and caring, compassion and understanding – that is the nourishment that opens up the bloom of the mind for learning.
There are no bad kids, there are no dumb or stupid kids, there is only labeling. Labeling by the lazy-minded and the undisciplined, the impatient and the uncreative, trying to box in bland cardboard, the dull slate gray iron bars of a state penitentiary, those things whom are rightly called people. People with minds and souls and hearts and spirits who have their own minds, minds that are deep and complex and that question, minds of people trying to figure out their place in this world, their place in their own skin.
Do you want to know what I did today?
This morning, at around eleven am, forty-five minutes before dismissal,
I rolled out my chair into the hallway, so I could be at eye-level, and I called each of my children – my students – out, by name, one by one.
They stepped outside. I handed them their report card. I shook their hand. I looked each in the eye, and I told them what a pleasure it was to have them in my class, what an honor it was to teach them, to have hopefully showed them something that was actually useful to them, that was worth learning. I told each one of them what I saw in them, their separate eighteen potentials. Seeds that if planted just right – in the right soil, given the right amount of sunshine and water – may just blossom into their best selves, and may in turn, help someone else.
I told them to stick to their strengths, to not give in to their weaknesses, to listen to the goodness I knew that was inside them, and to fight – as we all do – against the darker side of themselves. I told them each that they were special. That they were worth something.
I know some will fail – as I have failed, as we have all failed – but I know many will bounce back. And I know some will not.
I am not a fool. I do not suffer from delusions of grandeur. I know that my influence is limited, that the influence of the Big Bad World is a far greater, far more powerful thing.
I am merely an old fool playing at wizardry, whispering soft spells onto seedlings and casting them into the wind. And hoping …
I have done what I can, and next year I want to do better, to be better – always.
I love my job. I love teaching children. It gives me hope. It gives me purpose. It teaches me humility. And it keeps me young, and connected with the pure, vibrant, simple way that children live, the simple laws of fairness and kindness and equality that they all mostly naturally possess.
It is a fine world to live in. It is a fine thing I feel I do. But I know the truth. It’s not really me. It’s them.