If I’m too tired, just think about these kids and their families

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Yesterday was the single most taxing day I’ve experienced in the classroom since I started volunteering in the shelter preschool in early 2009.

I don’t want to get into detail about all that happened, because I’m afraid an account might give the wrong impression about children I care for. At times they all display positive attributes—curiosity, caring, imagination, cooperation and a desire to please. Usually, positive, uplifting moments leaven the difficulties.

Yesterday, though, we faced a perfect storm of disruptive and uncooperative behavior, compounded by random and purposeful collisions among the kids. (I only had to weather four hours of it. For the teachers, it had been going on all week.)

For perspective, here are a couple old posts about challenges in the classroom: A description of a day in class and a list of reasons why kids cry at school.

Note that those accounts were written about a class of 20. Yesterday, we had only 10 kids (until one was sent home). This group seemed twice as difficult as the bigger one because every child got in on the unrelenting action.

Maybe it was only a bad week rather than a belwether. Many of the children have just moved up to the older-kids classroom. The teaching team is relatively new here. The mothers we had to call in to get involved with their children demonstrated concern and a grasp of positive parenting skills.

There will be progress. There always has been. The behavior plans and parental involvement may begin to pay off.

But there’s no getting around that these children are living in a shelter, that the circumstances that brought them here probably didn’t advance their development, and even if their lives improve once they leave, they will still face hurdles middle class families don’t.

If we don’t make substantial headway before they start public school, it’s possible to envision a ripple effect as they start out behind, act out their frustrations and disrupt new classrooms and then sink into that mire some people condescendingly call “a culture of poverty.”

As if being a poor four-year-old who turns into a troubled adult is somehow voluntary.

Coming home yesterday, I wanted to write more about this, but I was too tired. I still am.