I bumped into a former student today and asked how she was doing.
Based on our relationship formed two years ago, the student started to tell me all the things she was dealing with recently. Custody, living arrangements, siblings, supporting siblings, etc. She wasn't complaining. She was just telling me all the things that were on her mind. I asked questions and listened.
Shortly before I walked away and reflected on the conversation, I told her how she could stay in touch with me regardless of where she was living next year. I hope she does.
The realization I had (and have a hard time remembering with any real consistency) was that she had so much 'real life' stuff occurring outside of our school walls.
Then, I thought about what we do at school. What we ask our students to be able to do. How we are asking them to focus on what we want them to do/learn without realizing they might not care, even if they may want to care if life was different for them outside of school.
I don't know what the answer is to this predicament that plagues our students (and teachers). The idea of creating a balance between what schools are asking students to do and what we should be doing to meet their social/emotional needs seems like a reasonable starting point.
As many educators know, if the student doesn't have their basic needs met and is lacking basic social/emotional needs, it doesn't matter what and how we teach anything in schools.
There are lot of problems with our world and society. Rather than focus on the problems I'm doing my best to be part of the solution.
Individually, I can become more aware of the stressors that our students experience outside of school and use empathy to put myself in their shoes.
Not only will I be perceived as a more caring teacher (which will lead to more credibility), I will be able to positively impact the students I serve the way I wanted to when I decided to become a teacher.
And if I can do it, so can you.