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“It’s just so sad.”

September 4, 2012

“It’s just such sad story,” lamented the small group of ladies, each shaking their heads as their eyes fell to the floor.

This was the scene I recently witnessed while volunteering at a local shelter. Every one of these women is well-meaning and good-hearted, but this conversation would have indicated anything but. They had just finished standing around the kitchen, whispering details of a new resident’s life story, hoping another resident or (heaven forbid) the one whose story was being aired didn’t walk in.

I was fed up, but not strong enough to say something. After all, I had met these women merely an hour earlier and have been working on filtering my language in an effort to offend fewer people. Don’t they know this isn’t their story to tell?

Shouldn’t the discussion center around the strength this resident exhibited? Or her courage? Or even the renewed hope she now had?

I often find myself in situations like these. Teachers feel as though they should discuss students’ life stories as entertaining tragedies at dinner parties and happy hours, and I’ll admit that I am sometimes guilty. However, I often attempt to focus on the promise in each child’s life. They are extremely resilient, stronger than their age should allow, and resourceful beyond their years.

Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about all of the things these children have to offer at school, no matter what their background or life experiences. It’s my goal to begin speaking up to alert teachers when they begin using students’ lives as entertainment. Instead, I hope to have their stories inspire me.

Their stories are incredibly inspiring. That should be the focus.

Also check out “Haunting Words to Inspire Every Teacher,” a blog post from last August by Marilyn Rhames. The idea that, “It happened to them,” will never stop pushing me to view students’ lives through a different lens.

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