I hate purses. I hate carrying one. I hate digging through the black hole that mine inevitably become. But most of all, I HATE keeping up with one. As a result, I rarely carry mine unless I'm going inside a store.
Last Thursday our English department attended a training off campus and I drove the school Expedition. So I took my purse. On Friday afternoon I was looking for said purse, and it was nowhere to be found. It's not in the house, and it's not in my truck. Yesterday morning I drove back to school to see if I possibly left it in the building when I went in Thursday after we returned. Not there. I went to the bus barn, and the Expedition was not there. I drove to Ft. Worth to the American Airlines training facility and my purse has not been turned in to the front desk. Today the coaches who had the Expedition checked and it's not in there.
I have instant banking/credit card alerts set, so I know that no one is using the cards that are in my wallet. But I'm worried. I'm irritated. I'm stressed. Hopefully, the housekeeping crew at the training center will report that it's in their custody tomorrow morning.
So what does this have to do with education? This low level stress has kept me unfocused and out of sorts all weekend. I've imagined the most horrible possible outcomes, but I know how to deal with the situation should that blighted object never reappear. How much greater is the stress on some of my students? Those who live with no electricity? In violent situations? On the edge of eviction? With substance abuse? Caretakers of siblings? Am I ADDING to the stress on them?
I don't think so. I hope I'm not. But I worry.
I don't ever chastise a kid for not having pen/pencil or paper. I just point to where they can be found. I don't quiz them over their independent reading, and if they aren't reading, I just hand them a new stack of titles to peruse. But am I doing other things, things that I haven't considered, that may be adding to stress?
We throw around the ideas of "grit" and "perseverance" and "teaching responsibility," (oh, how I WISH someone had taught me to be responsible enough to keep up with that stinking purse!) and I do not advocate just letting them do whatever they please with no guidance or accountability at all. And I know that they have to keep going even when they face difficulty. But tomorrow, this week, from now on, if a kid is distracted, out of sorts, unfocused, I'll be checking in to see if they want to talk about the underlying stress. I'll ask just a little more than "You okay?" before I move on to the "important" stuff. I'll offer general ideas for dealing with stress. These are high school kids and much of the time they aren't going to share, but they'll know that I'm aware-that I want them to be okay in our shared environment.
And I'll ask the kids if they've seen that blasted purse.