One day when I was feeling sick (and I’ve been in extraordinarily ill health for the past two months), I remarked to the one student in the office that I thought I had a fever and pulled out a thermometer and slipped it in my mouth. (You should know that I don’t always carry a thermometer around but had brought it because my fever and other symptoms on the previous day had reminded me of malaria, and it’s always good to track your fever pattern when you have malaria.) My student’s eyes grew huge as she looked at me in utter disbelief. I realized that it might be completely strange to her that I would have my own thermometer. She had told me the week before that there were no scissors at her house.
Every day I get glimpses into lives that are so very different from my own. Sometimes it’s more than glimpses: it’s like they invite me in for an open house. My job turns out to be a lot more counseling than I am qualified to do, I’m afraid.
Here’s a smattering of recent issues:
--uncle’s semi is broken into by his ne’er-do-well brother. Uncle is accused of being an accessory and uncle’s house (where my student is staying) is sealed by the FBI for investigation.
--several hospitalizations of students and family members for asthma
--student’s mom may be going to jail for a little while, so student must drop out of school to work full time
--student’s grandmother doesn’t approve of her butch (“stud” in student’s lingo) look nor lesbian lifestyle
--student’s boyfriend is picked up on a yea- old warrant and locked up. She can’t visit him because she’s a minor and he’s in adult jail.
--botched abortion (on-going issue)
--15-year-old student leaves much-older abusive live-in boyfriend
--student tells me of her neglected childhood with a parent she no longer lives with
--student’s father confiscates her legal papers, threatens to burn them and send her back to Mexico
--student tells me about her gift of sight: she’s dreamed many things that have come true and lately she’s dreamed her own death three times
--parent conferences with families that are clearly highly dysfunctional, if not actually abusive
--several girls who don’t have time for school work because they have to look after younger siblings
--many students are dealing with having lost friends and family members to violence
So…that’s probably why I’m not writing much lately. I feel so inadequate at helping students make sense of their lives. Sometimes I know they just want to be listened to, but sometimes I think they want advice and I just don’t have it. While I am somewhat flattered or honored that they choose to share so much with me, I feel a little resentful too. How can I be given this responsibility without also being given the tools to fulfill it?
Bittersweet - Eyal and I always knew that it would be difficult building a family from two different countries. It is just now, however, that we have to really put that ...
5 years ago