Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Unconditional teaching- be ready when a student chooses you...

flickr CC image via RachelLovesToLaugh

 "The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for." - Bob Marley
I've spent a considerable amount of time during my career working with kids from at-risk environments. I say from at-risk environments purposely as opposed to kids at-risk because in the vast majority of cases, these children have had absolutely no part in putting themselves at-risk... they haven't chosen to be that way. Risk in the social-emotional, behavioral, economic, mental or any other all fall in the domain of the adult. Sadly, but undeniably, when adults are experiencing risk, the environment that results will affect the kids exposed to it.

I have met and worked with hundreds of resilient kids who have found ways to endure, and overcome these risk environments. The overwhelming majority have done this by seeking and depending on responsible adults to support their effort. Regarding the most overwhelming problems facing kids today, I would go out on a limb and say that it would take the rarest of individuals who could overcome them alone. We have to be ready when a child chooses one of us as the responsible adult he thinks will be able to help.

Often, the at-risk environments these kids experience include situational violence that can be hard to displace; even when they aren't directly threatened by it. In school, whether through their actions, feelings or words, these kids will typically be perceived as the more violent variety, and this is off-putting to many who work with them. However, besides the generalized violence we see in these kids, what if there was a deliberate purpose to their presentation?

I believe that many of the most adversarial kids in school are the ones that need our help the most, and they're also the ones who have developed an ingenious strategy to filter the proverbial wheat from the chafe, so to speak. Kids who know pain, know how to wield pain... so that's what they do. They do this because they want to determine, very simply, who will take it and still be there the next day to do it all over again- they do it to find out which teachers believe they are worth suffering for.

We are always hardest on those who we're closest to because we feel safe that they will stick with us. We know that their unconditional love is displayed through a lack of judgment, acceptance of our faults and through a willingness to share our pain holding hands together toward a better future.

Next time a student is making your day miserable, ask yourself why because it just may be that you're the one he wants to believe he's worth suffering for.
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