There’s an innocence to childhood which stems from ignorance. Children supposed to be unaware of the brutalities of the world. Unfortunately, many of the children in the population of my school are exposed to the reproachful reality of the “real world” at too young of an age.
I was shocked at first when my children would giggle when homonyms such as “joint” or “screw” would come up in class. But I grew to realize that these children are growing up in homes without censors and they pick up on things probably 10 years too young.
My children are not allowed to have any unstructured time, even during recess. Recess is planned out with activities. The fear is that if children are given too much time to talk to each other or mix with the general population then more things will happen like that fight I broke up.*(see: 11-7-16)
We had a speaker come into speak to the second grade class. A social worker, actually. I think he was from the district office. Apparently he’s been speaking to all of the grades about drugs and violence at home. It was rather startling actually.
Our three classrooms gathered in our school’s multi-purpose room. He was a great speaker. All of the kids were very engaged. He told a story about how he was raised by his grandparents because his mother was addicted to drugs and he never met his father. Then asked these kids if they’ve ever seen people use drugs. Most of them had. He explained how bad drugs are and through some DARE program “just say ‘no'” gospel on them.
He talked about how school was hard and how he grew up poor. How he didn’t always have enough food or warm clothes. How his two older brothers often stole things for him on his birthday and his grandmother would make them give that stuff away. Really heartbreaking stuff, actually.
Then the worst part was when he asked the children if they’d like to share a story about their family. He specifically wanted to know if their family ever stole, was violent, or used drugs. A couple of students talked about how they sometimes have to share their beds. A few mentioned that there were times when they weren’t allowed in certain rooms. One student talked about how his mother is usually too “tired” (drunk? stoned?) to make dinner and he has to cook frozen dinners for him and his sister.
At the end, the social worker told everyone that they should talk to their teachers or principal if they ever feel unsafe and that he’s here to help anyone who needs to talk about stuff.
Later, Mrs. Jeffers told me that this guy comes in every year, talks to every grade, and he’s never seen again. But surprisingly, my kids were mellowed out after the speaker. I had a heart-to-heart with my students and asked them about the things the speaker had said. Some said they remembered him from last year.
I guess I’m sort of in shock. I can’t imagine their lives are really all that bad. Many of them come to school with iPod and some have cell phones. I dunno. I guess I really have no idea what it’s like to grow up poor.