Downcast eyes, slumped shoulders, and an empty slate... I see the signs of disengagement and I spring into action. I sit down next to him on the carpet and ask if he is OK. He nods and states he is really, really tired. I prod a bit further but there is nothing...so I let him sit for a few to gather his thoughts. One thing you'd notice in my therapeutic classroom is the lack of words to express emotion. To explain grief or pain, joy or fear, sadness or anger...there are few to no words.
As class moves along I watch him closely from a distance and it's apparent there are feelings stirring beneath the surface. As the children engage in a writing activity I pull up two chairs just outside the door so we can have a safe space to talk.
"My dad wouldn't let me sleep."
"Oh honey, can you tell me why?"
"Because we had to get up for school - I was so tired."
"How late did you stay up?"
"Until 5:30 this morning (almost falling asleep as we talk)"
"That is too late for a 3rd grade body, your body needs rest - look, your eyes want to close because you haven't had enough rest. That is dangerous for an 8 year old boy. What were you doing up until 5:30 this morning?"
"I was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops with my dad."
And in that moment what I wanted to say was, "Let me tell your mom's boyfriend a thing or two about his call of duty to be a father and parent you, about your call of duty to be given a chance, and my call of duty to educate your precious life in order that you might have SOME semblance of a chance for a successful life."
Some days...no, every day, it takes everything in me not want to scoop them all up and run away with them. *sigh*
And you begin to see why boundaries in a therapeutic classroom are so incredibly crucial. Outside of my classroom very few boundaries exist for a majority of my students. Subsequently, they lack the ability to regulate themselves in many situations. If left to their own devices many of the students in my classroom would steal, lie, and manipulate their way through the day because these are the mechanism to which their brains default out of necessity to survive.
I'll refrain for now from digressing into the neuroscience behind trauma... but I will say that teachers cannot shoulder the call of duty to children alone. We cannot shoulder it alone. We cannot. I cannot.
By the way, he came in today and told me he went to bed early last night...on his own. Progress.