I have a student this year that almost instantly won me over at the start of this year. I like all of my students (yes, admittedly some more than others) and learn something new from them every single day, but this little second grader took over a special place in my heart from the first time I met her.
My friend has a constant smile on her face. She loves anything fancy - jewelry, sequins, dresses, shoes with heels - and without fail has a compliment for anyone who is looking particularly put together that day. She's eager to give and accept hugs, works hard, and is always looking for encouragement or reassurance. On the first day she met me she looked me square in the eye and with complete seriousness said, "You are really pretty". She exited my room a week later by saying, "Good-bye, princess". I mean, come on. How do you not love a child who makes you feel good about yourself?
Given her happy, sunny disposition you wouldn't guess her home life is in turmoil. She and her family don't have much. Her family has been living in a shelter in a town 30 minutes away. She has three siblings and their parents are doing the best they can to get back on their feet. This student has had serious truancy issues for a variety of issues since the start of the year, something that's difficult for any student to overcome but almost insurmountable for a child who struggles in all areas of school. She and her siblings often come to school dirty and hungry, and she's in desperate need for a new pair of glasses.
I learned today that this student is enrolling in a school district in the town where they are currently moving in with their grandparents. This school district is much larger than ours, and my heart is breaking that we are losing her to another school. I quickly adopted the opinion that as long as she came to school and received a hot meal at lunch and felt loved by her teachers while she was here than that day was a success for her. I often think of my former students and wonder where they are now and what they've become, and I have no doubts that she'll weigh heavily on my mind and heart for years to come. I hope for her and her family that they get back on a solid foundation and that my student will always - despite the struggles she may face in life - carry with her the same attitude she exudes now, a personality as warm and inviting as ray of sunshine on a summer day.
I am grateful for the time this student was in my life, and in this season of Thanksgiving not only do I give thanks for all that I have - a healthy family, jobs that provide, reliable vehicles, a safe home, constant access to meals, clean clothes, warm showers, and SO much more - but I also give thanks for those who teach me and remind me that not all are as fortunate as it gives me a reminder to be thankful ALL year long, not just during these weeks of November. I'm praying for my student and her family, and I'd like to ask you to do the same for her and for others in your own communities going through similar struggles.