She hated me.
I didn’t know a lot about her, but I knew this for sure.
She hated me with every stare down as I walked through the halls, with every glare when I entered one of her classes, and with every silent meeting in my office – me talking, and her projecting her hatred without saying a word, without cooperating in any way.
Once she stood up and punched at my face, expertly grazing my cheekbone so it didn’t cause damage, but it sent the clearest possible message.
I asked the school counselor what I had done wrong, what I had done to deserve such hatred. She said, “Oh, don’t worry about her. She hates everyone”.
Don’t worry? If a 14-year-old hates everyone with that intensity, it is a huge cause for worry.
Recently, while waiting to board a flight, I opened a free copy of the local paper – and there was her face, older but unmistakeable. It was a selfie she had taken in happier times, her devilish smile betraying the torment that was under the surface.
The words below the photo did not mention suicide, but they didn’t have to. The two babies she adored were now without a mother.
As any educator would, I began to wonder if I could have done more.
Mary Jean Gallagher often says that our job is to teach. We are not social workers. Our job is to ensure that children learn.
Catherine Montreuil emphasizes that no child in our classrooms can be stuck. It is our responsibility to ensure that every child learns. We don’t have to do it alone, we can get the supports we need to ensure learning happens.
Some of our kids need more than we can give. It doesn’t mean we stop trying. The structure of our schools makes it so difficult for some of our children to be successful.
I can no longer do anything for her, but I can keep working to make sure her babies enter an environment that embraces all cultures, respects and encourages all learning, and provides all the supports that all children need to be successful.
I owe her that.