Today, I saw something disturbing. I walked back to my car to get my phone. I had to take a picture of it.
As a parent, I don’t know how to explain what I saw. As a middle school teacher, my mind was swimming for hours with “what if’s” after we pulled away from the abandoned 3-bedroom-with-a-pool.
In an empty house that is going up for auction in five days, evidence of a struggling parent and a struggling child or teenager were written on the walls. The white painted wall of a child’s room was the backdrop for a list of expectations for Rusty. The list was handwritten in black marker. There are twenty-three rules for Rusty.
The house was going up for auction in five days; where was Rusty now?
Is he in a foster home? Does he live with other family members? Is he still under the influence of this list, both he and his guardian, trying to navigate their way through rules?
From the brown stains on the carpet, Rusty wasn’t a big fan of rule number five. How many of these rules did he ever master?
There are a thousand important answers to questions that we don’t have as on-lookers to the life that Rusty was living. There are more unknown answers to follow from a parent who is doing the best that they can, adding rules as they go through a rolling path of interventions.
If you’ve raised teenagers, you can appreciate the challenges. As a parent, I am having a very difficult time understanding the whole concept of writing on the walls. As a professional, I hesitate to tarry too long on the ineffective format and content of twenty-three negative expectations.
It’s a glaring indication of a giant problem. It is still swimming in my thoughts tonight and, I predict, for months ahead as I plan for a new population of students coming through the doors in August. Will I have a “Rusty” in my class? Is he the quiet one who does not like working with teams? Or is he the loud one trying to gain attention by bullying students? Rusty, I wish I could help.
I decided to share this with you today because the marks on Rusty’s wall gave me a deeper awareness of what I don’t know about the kids who come to my classroom. As educators, we will never know all the methods that mold who our students are before we have them in our care. We will never see the full results of the short time they spend discovering in our classrooms.
I wish my governor could see this. As governors and administrators modulate class size and craft budgets for teaching the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and innovators, parents cannot be removed from the equation of success for their child.
The older side of me appreciates there is so much I do not know. But this I do get. Often, it’s not the writing on the walls that empowers the best ideas for the future.