The other day I saw something as I scrolled through my instagram about not counting down the days to something being done because eventually you’ll be counting down the days of your life. It was the most motivational and dark post I had seen in a while and I had to take a step back and think about it. I’ve always had jobs where there is a countdown: a countdown to a regatta, a countdown to a test, a countdown to the school year being over…everything is/was a continuous countdown. My latest post up until this one was about how much I like what I do and how much I love the kids I work with. It’s all true. However I feel I must counterbalance the sunshine and rainbows that other post seemed to fart out. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, the last few weeks I have come home and just sat exhausted. I can’t speak for other people who try to do this but the gist of the task is to help kids who have learning challenges. We’re not teaching them which perhaps makes it more tricky because sometimes you are walking blindfolded trying to figure out what others want you to do and other times things are planned minute-by-minute and you wonder how to fit it all in. But we do it. This is probably one of the few positions where you really get to build a strong, solid, relationship with a kid because you are their person. Everybody has “their” person. This “person” picks them up for lunch or drops them off. This “person” sees you in the morning or afternoon. This “person” follows the plan. This “person” is lost in the plan. This “person” goes where they’re needed. Their kids ask this “person” the questions even if they do not even know what’s going on. They confide in their “person”. We try to be the “person”. We have to be the “person” for many kids. We are so busy being other people’s “persons” that sometimes it’s like you forget you’re a person too. You don’t have the time. Going with the flow is one thing but being swept by a current is a complete other. This is the challenge every day. The truth is that there are children who need help academically and then there are those who need help socially, emotionally, or just being at school without being some sort of hazard. These children pop up EVERYWHERE. For someone like me who has a really big challenge with change (seriously, I will self admit I am a bit like Sheldon Cooper) watching these kids come and go is like a life-size whack-a-mole game…and you’ve only got one hand to do it with. Here’s the thing about the way that works, we, the “persons” can suck it up and deal with it but it’s kids who suffer from what happens when their “person” is gone. I’ll tell you something, never in my life did I think I would have to grit my teeth and smile when I was asked by a young person “Why don’t I get anybody to help me?” “How come nobody comes in and helps me?” I’ve lived a life where honesty is my number one policy but in this case, honesty would have been heartbreaking. Saying, “there aren’t enough of us to go around” or “I really don’t know”…it’s not motivating and it doesn’t solve anything. The next closest thing I could think of was, “I know it’s frustrating and I am sorry.” What frightens me the most about a kid who realizes the disparity is that for every kid who actually says something, there are at least twice as many who are thinking it. They might not know how to add, but they know when things aren’t adding. Kids seldom advocate for their right to learn. The young ones who do are told “that’s just the way it is”. If they’re older they’re usually in High School and their life path has already been set for them. That scares me: A group of kids who didn’t fit the severity mold to get help but aren’t strong enough to do without and they will go through life believing that they aren’t important. We tell kids they can be anything they want to be if they put their mind to it but WE, the “people”, shape who they are too. If we’re not there shaping, they’re there struggling, struggling, struggling and eventually, settling. That’s a whole group of kids who could have made it. A whole group of kids who could have proven the world wrong about their abilities and they just settled. They aren’t brilliant, they aren’t crappy, they’re just fine. Everybody is just fine.
We are living in a world where it’s okay to just be fine. We go through each day fine. We tell kids they’re fine. We tell ourselves we’re fine. I’ll tell you something, we’ve created a society that’s okay with fine and we’re seeing it unfold now with kids who are said to be fine when they’re not. I’m not okay with fine, I’m not okay with being molded into fine and I’m not okay with molding kids to be just fine. However, if we keep this trend up where education is still the bottom of the barrel as are the people in it and bringing in Tall Ships each summer is the top, this is not going to be a fine situation. I will not be fine with it either. I am not counting down the days until it’s done. I’ve just started counting up.