Although I’m retired, every now and then I find myself thinking about my old job. Most days I considered myself very fortunate to do what I did for a living. My counselor’s job was quite fulfilling and working in my old hometown as I did, it felt good to be able to give something back to the community I was raised in. Yeah most days I really loved my job but not every day. There were a few days when I would have loved to be anywhere else but in my office.
I recall one particular morning, it started out well enough, I met with my Work Experience Class, did some paperwork, met with several of my seniors about graduation and had a conference with a student and his mom about his poor attendance. It alway amazed me how I didn’t see some parents all year long even though they’d been contacted by mail and countless phone calls from the the attendance clerks about their students poor attendance. Instead they chose to wait until the final few weeks of school to show up and discuss a problem which in many cases has been ongoing since September. Better late than never I suppose.
It was shortly after this meeting that my day took a turn for the worse. The AP came in and asked if I could assist her in dealing with a fight situation so I went over to talk to one of the combatants. As I entered the office I recognized him right away. He was one of our freshmen Special Day Class students and a really nice kid. He was crying and holding an ice pack to his head. It was hard for me to imagine that he would ever get in a fight. As we talked I learned that there was no fight. He had been hit by a student in his PE class who has been bullying him recently and simply attacked him. I felt so bad for him. For the longest time I couldn’t get him to stop crying. He was so upset that this student would hit him when he didn’t do anything wrong to him. He just couldn’t understand why the kid didn’t like him.
God, my heart went out to that kid. I hated to see him so upset. He was really hurting, not from the physical blows, but the emotional ones. It just wasn’t fair that a decent kid like him should be terrorized by a mainstreamed student. We talked awhile longer, then the AP came in and took over. I left feeling like I hadn’t really accomplished much. I did get him to stop crying but try as I might I couldn’t get him to understand why the kid had bullied him. Hell, I didn’t even understand it myself. Kids can be so cruel.
Once back in my own office I returned a couple of phone calls and began working on some graduation related items when one of my seniors who will not be graduating showed up at my door. Unfortunately he was five credits short of the 220 required for graduation and with only two weeks remaining there was no way he could make up the credit in time. He wanted to work out a deal so that he could go through the graduation ceremony and finish the five credits up in summer school. I explained to him that there were no deals to be had. He needed all of his credits on the transcript by the deadline of Friday the 8th in order to walk. It was a District policy.
He looked so disappointed sitting there. He reminded me of an elementary school kid as he fought back tears. He told me he was very close to finishing the English credit recovery class he was taking after school. He just needed a few extra days. I told him that as much as I would like to help him I didn’t have the authority to give him the extra time and there was nothing I could do. I felt horrible. The kid had worked so hard making up credits this semester by taking six regular classes, credit recovery and adult school in another district. All that effort and he fell a few days short. I suggested he try talking to the AP about giving him the extra time he needed and if that didn’t work go to the principal. He simply shrugged and walked slowly out of my office. Yeah, it was really shaping up to be a terrific day. Not!
After lunch things went from bad to worse. My first student of the afternoon had some serious stuff going on. This young lady had some major anger management issues and had been involved in a few fights. She told me she took out her aggression by punching the walls at home and last week she had even punched out her window. Recently she had begun cutting herself and had several marks on both her forearms. Now a situation like that is beyond my credential and calls for a licensed therapist or psychologist so I did refer her for outside counseling, but not before spending the rest of the afternoon talking with her.
I tell you, it was so sad, by the time I left for the day I felt like I needed counseling, but I had to settle for a long bike ride followed by a cold beer instead, which seemed to help a little. Yeah, sometimes the situations these kids are forced to live in are devastating. There are students being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles or single-parents as a result of divorce, immigration issues or the incarceration of one or both parents. Often there are student living in a home or apartment with two or more families, or living in garages. Then of course there are all of the foster kids and the homeless. Definitely not a very pretty picture and nothing like the “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best” childhood we grew up in.
I felt for these kids and still do. It’s days like this that make me realize how fortunate I was as a child and how fortunate my own children were. It’s on days like this that I wish there was more that I could do for these kids, more that schools could do for them. It’s days like this that caused me pain. Most days I truly loved my counseling job and working with my students, but some days, like this particular one really sucked because I felt so powerless to help them. So many of these kids are being denied the childhood they deserve and are forced to face life’s cruel reality much too soon. It just isn’t fair. But then no one ever said that life is fair…
Just a Thought…