Life is a classroom and my students are my teachers. There is indeed so much we can learn from watching children live through their life experiences, and teaching in an impoverished area has been an eye-opener for me, to say the least. Over the years, I’ve seen countless wonderful, caring, striving families who want only the best for their children. I’ve also seen the heartache and adversity that some of the children and their families go through.
Sometimes it seems as if these communities are a magnet to terrible, negative situations. Children being taken away from their families, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, parents in jail, homelessness, and everything else in between.
After working with the students that come from adversity such as this, I have come to the conclusion that I have no desire to run the other way and move to teach in a more affluent district. I have no desire to work in an area that would be supposedly “easier” to teach in. I want to be right where I am, even though at times it has broken my heart to witness some of the things I have.
We see a lot as teachers. We get an up close look at adverse childhood experiences, commonly referred to as “A.C.E.s”. You might wonder how someone, particularly a child, can get past tragedies such as these without crumbling, without anger, or without giving up. As author Glennon Doyle wrote, “Everything is dependent upon our ability to sit with discomfort, and not numb it, and not reject it, and not use it to hurt other people…Everything beautiful comes from there.”
Carl Jung, the psychiatrist and founder of the school of analytical psychology, said, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” We can use our life experiences as a crutch, a condemnation, or a handicap — or we can use it to make us stronger, to propel us onto another level spiritually, or to inspire others or ourselves for getting through it. We can choose whether negativity or positivity comes out of it.
As bystanders of the injustice we see as teachers, there is something we can do to help neutralize it at least. Joseph Campbell is an author that often talks about this injustice in the human experience. He said, “We cannot cure the world of all its sorrow, but we can choose to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.” He says that we have to be that joy today. We have to beam our love to them. Maybe if we do so, we can teach successfully to our future, bringing to light the adversity and resilience in children as a reminder to all what inspiration and enlightenment children can bring us, and then we see that indeed, life is a classroom.