Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Help

"Will you come in and help me? I really don't know what to say."

The words felt unnatural coming out of my mouth because I don't really ask for help at work or in life. However, I really wanted to be absolved of all responsibility to discuss the death of this parent with a room full of eight and nine year olds.

In retrospect, I can see how it is best coming from me, but I am afraid to say the wrong thing or say it the wrong way. I feel like I can't handle this issue and I wish someone would do it for me.

They need to see from me that everything is going to be okay, and that they are still in a safe world; they also need to see that I have compassion for the situation and the loss matters to me. They don't need to see that I shake a little bit when I think about going to that funeral on Saturday (the first one I've ever been to for a suicide). They don't need to see that I kind of wish this child was in someone else's classroom because I feel suddenly young and inexperienced to handle this.

All of this makes me think about what I believe about teaching and life and God. I'm only in my fifth year of teaching and this is the second time I have dealt with a really tragic situation impacting my classroom. Two years ago, I had a student who discovered suddenly that she had a life-threatening brain tumor the year she was in my class. We didn't know what would happen and we didn't know if she would be okay. I am happy to report that she is doing well today. The tumor is completely removed and she is in school full time again. She's in fifth grade now and she said to me the other day, "You know, when I was in third grade, it was a really bad year, but I am glad you were there and helped me get through it."

Now, I find myself trying to help this child who had a parent commit suicide and wants nothing more than to be in school as much as possible because that is where she is happiest. I realize that twice I've had kids in my class who are experiencing the worst year of their young lives (who are experiencing a worse year than I've ever experienced in my young life), and I can't believe they are there by coincidence. I think God puts them with me so they'll be closer to him. He loves them and I pray and try to do what He wants. I think he is trying to reach them through me. I find myself saying the same words to him that I was saying to the VP, words I don't say a lot. "Will You come in and help me? I really don't know what to say?"

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