In honor of Mothers’ Day — I saw this Facebook post earlier this week, and it just about ripped my heart out. Yes, there really are mothers like this one, who put their love lives ahead of their kids’ welfare. We need to keep speaking out against these Mommy Dearests, and do our best to erase the damage they do to these kids. Kudos to teachers like Lauren who are willing to get below the surface and reach out to these hurting kids.
(Reposted with permission.)
I get asked all the time why I teach. I never know how to answer it quite right, so I usually say something sarcastic like, “Because I’m really a huge fan of hearing myself repeat the same thing sixteen times in three minutes,” or “Because summers, obviously.”
There was boy in my morning class, I’ll call him Danny. At least three times a week, he showed up over an hour late to my class. He was always behind, never quite knew what was going on, and his late work caused extra grading for me. Frankly, he annoyed me. Every time he showed up late, I assumed he didn’t care. He wasn’t responsible. He didn’t respect me. Finally, I asked him. “Danny, why are you always late?” He shrugged. I said nothing, and waited for a response. He sighed, “My mom got this new boyfriend, and whenever she stays the night at his place, no one is home to make sure my little brother gets on the bus. I make sure he’s awake and get him on his bus, but that means I miss my bus and have to walk.” How far is your house from school? “A little over a mile.”
Danny IS responsible. Danny DOES care. Danny DOES value his education. See, whenever Danny was late, he would miss the school’s free breakfast and go hungry until lunch. He’s frustrated with his mom, behind in his classes, and is hungry. Of course this 13 year old boy is acting out! Now, when Danny shows up late, instead of greeting him with a detention slip and an eye roll, I get to greet him with a genuine smile and a granola bar.
Danny humbled me. To be completely honest, I get humbled by my students daily. They make me realize that I can be impatient, judgmental, and imperfect. But the thing is, there’s no eleventh commandment that says, “Thou shalt be perfect.” Jesus just showed up, met people exactly where they were, and loved them. Then he taught, but only after their immediate needs were met.
I teach because I get to ask kids “why” every day. Why are you late? Why aren’t your clothes clean? Why aren’t you doing your work? Why do you want to sleep in my class? Why are you so afraid to take a risk? Why don’t you trust adults? Why are you acting out? Why are you arguing with me? (Sometimes the questions are ridiculous: why are you hiding in my closet? Why did you think it was a good idea to throw your shoe out the window? Why did you just lick your neighbor’s ear?)
The “whys” teachers ask aren’t to be punitive and shame kids. Teachers ask kids “why” because we get to treat students like human beings worthy of love and respect. Those “whys” show kids that we care, that they’re worthy, that they matter, and that they’re safe. We ask why, and then we listen… Really listen to these kids.
“The ACE Study tells us that experiencing chronic, unpredictable toxic stress in childhood predisposes us to a constellation of chronic conditions in adulthood.” (Psychology Today)
Have you ever wished for a way to measure your childhood adversity? If so, this is for you:
Finding your ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) score
While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:
1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
7. Was your mother or stepmother: Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide? Yes No If yes enter 1 ________
10. Did a household member go to prison? Yes No If yes enter 1 _______
Now add up your “Yes” answers: _______ This is your ACE Score.
(downloaded from acestudy.org)
If you scored 4 or above, you definitely experienced adverse childhood conditions. To find out what your score means, go here.