Why I Do What I Do

…at least at work. Maybe with my life.

I won’t tell you his real name. Let’s call him Bubba. He is one of the mouthier kids in the resource room. You have to convince him that working is his idea, and you have to ignore much of what comes out of his mouth. Often, it helps to reward him with a piece of Big Red chewing gum.

This morning he wanted to sleep, and since I was proofing an essay for someone else, I told him he could, even though it is against the rules. At least until I was done. Then I went to get him so we could do his math.

“I’m so tired,” he said, “because of my mom.”

In case you haven’t been around kids in a while, at least in a school setting, pretty much nothing is their fault. So when a kid whines like Bubba did, you tend not to take them seriously.

Part of the problem that we have with Bubba is that he always wants to sleep. Teachers tend to be rather unforgiving about that, viewing the late bedtimes to which the teenagers lay claim as a personal choice. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes the kids work late, helping out their families. Sometimes there are other things that get in the way.

Turns out that was the case with Bubba. As we worked, he talked. There are three bedrooms in his home. His mom has one, and each of his sisters has one. He sleeps on the couch. And last night, his mom decided to talk on the phone in the living room until well after midnight. So Bubba couldn’t sleep.

Why in the world you would make a kid sleep on the couch if you didn’t have to is beyond me. Why you would not recognize that kids need schedules and they certainly need sleep is also beyond me. But I’ve worked in the schools long enough to know that what I consider good parenting is, by far, not the norm. And I have not walked in the shoes of those parents, so I try not to judge. I try just to deal.

Part of that dealing involves Bubba’s Big Red, and you had better believe that he got a piece this morning. We got all but one of his math problems done, all without a significant amount of sass, which I very much appreciated (the lack thereof, I mean).

Bubba doesn’t know, though, that I pray for him. That I think the best hope for him, for all of “my kids” is their Heavenly Parent, the one who knows exactly what they need. The one who knows them by their real names. The one, I believe, who put me and a lot of other people in place in his life so we could make at least something go right in his day.

There are a lot of educators out there who really care about kids. And there are a lot of kids who really need people who care. Like Bubba.

And that’s why I do what I do.


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October 2006
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