I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. The school year has started, and so my world has gotten much busier. I wrote this post on Monday, but I haven’t been able to make myself post it until today. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I think some things need to be said and I hope someone gets some healing from this…even if it’s just me. I have no cute, edited photo that I’ve turned into a post header today. Nothing seemed appropriate for this. So, without further adieu…
Today was an incredibly stressful day. Homecoming is this weekend, so I spent over five hours at school on a Sunday with Student Council working on posters, a float, and other homecoming related things. I’ll probably put in close to 60 or 70 hours this week alone running everything that has to do with homecoming – there’s quite a bit. On top of that, we also got an info dump today with a checklist of “you need to do this asap” items that seemed to come out of nowhere.
I basically spent the entire day feeling stressed and overworked, dreading the rest of the week and how much more stressful things were about to become.
I was throwing a little pity party for myself.
Then, a friend of mine came by my room to talk to me after school. We threw some ideas around for a project she wants to do with one of her classes. As we were leaving, she brought up a really tough situation she dealt with last year. One of her students attempted suicide, and he reached out to her right before. She had just enough time to call the police and send them to his house. If she hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t be here today. I remember reaching out to her then and telling her how incredible she was, and that it says so much about her as a teacher, that this young man reached out to her and she was able to save him. Today, she told me he was doing well and showed me something he posted on Instagram for Suicide Prevention Awareness Day.
For some reason, even back 4 or 5 months ago when she was dealing with this, I never asked her what the student’s name was. I guess I thought asking would be an invasion of his privacy? I don’t know what I thought, or why I never asked. But when she showed me the post, his name was there and it hit me like a punch in the gut.
I know him. I’d had him in class before. He reached out to me, anonymously, through this blog about 5 months ago, asking about suicide and faith.
And I never made the connection. Because I never asked. I never asked my friend who the student was.
Why didn’t I ask?
I remember getting that email. The “contact me” page on this site requires you to put in a return email address. He didn’t. He put in a fake one and candidly told me he didn’t want me to know who he was or to be able to respond to him. It killed me then to know that someone I cared about was hurting and I had no way of figuring out who it was. That message is what led me to write the post about the show Thirteen Reasons Why.
Why didn’t I ask her for his name? Why?
I got in my car this afternoon, and before I drove home I reached out to him. I told him I was sorry that I never made the connection and I told him I am so so so glad that my friend, another one of his teachers, was there for him. He responded, and I’m grateful that it didn’t matter that I didn’t know it was him. I’m grateful that he reached out to someone and that she was able to save his life. Because she did. She saved his life. All because she is a teacher who cares, a teacher who genuinely loves her students.
Someone call Betsy DeVos, please, and tell her public education is not failing as long as we have teachers like Katy Moore. As long as we have teachers who care as much as she does, public education will always be worth fighting for.
I was floored. I drove home in shock. After I got home, I called my husband. I told him about the anonymous message back when I got it. I asked him if he remembered; he did. I asked him if he remembered me telling him anything about my friend sending the police to a student’s house last year. He said it sounded familiar. I told him that those two things were connected, that it was the same person…
And then I couldn’t talk anymore because I don’t cry much but when I do it hits me like a ton of bricks and there is no warning. All I managed to get out was, “I didn’t know. I didn’t know,” in a high pitched squeak that I think might’ve scared my husband a little. I just lost it, and all he could do was keep asking, “Rachel Claire, are you OK?”
I know there was nothing I could’ve done. I know that. The young man in question told me that when I reached out to him this afternoon. He didn’t want me to know who he was. I know that. He apologized to me for making me feel this way now. I know he reads this blog too, so I want to re-emphasize to him again what I said in my message:
You have NOTHING to apologize for. I was not there for you, and that is on me, not you. I know you didn’t want me to know. I know you didn’t want me to be able to stop you. It’s just that the hurt I felt for you then is coming back, only now I finally know who I’m hurting for. Don’t apologize and don’t feel bad. I’m glad I know now.
But it doesn’t stop me from questioning myself, what if I had just asked?
Would it have changed anything if I had asked my friend 5 months ago who this student was? This student who she knew was struggling with suicide? After the attempt, if I had asked whose home she sent the police to, would it have mattered?
Probably not. I know that. But that didn’t stop me from sobbing in my kitchen on the phone with my husband.
I spent all day up until this point wallowing in self-pity, and isn’t it funny how God gives you a hefty dose of perspective at just the right time? My life seems much less stressful now.
I was oblivious; oblivious to the suffering of one of my kids. And sure, my eyes were opened this time, but what about next time? This time was already too late. I’m just grateful that it wasn’t too late for Katy to do something.
I can’t afford to be oblivious. All I had to do was ask for a name and I never did.
Why didn’t I ask? I still don’t know. But I know I’m going to do my best never to make that mistake again.
Before I had my realization this afternoon, Katy and I were discussing James Baldwin. He once said,
“These are ALL our children. We will profit by, or pay for, whatever they become.”
I want to teach my students to become the kind of people who think for themselves. I want them to learn how to read and process information so that they know what’s going on in the world. I want them to be able to distinguish between fact and fiction. But most of all, I want my students to remember me as a teacher who loved them and who cared about them. I want them to make it through high school, graduate, and when they look back I want them to remember feeling safe in my classroom. I want them to remember feeling loved. I want them to remember feeling noticed. I want them to leave my room knowing that there is at least one person in the world who gives a shit, and it’s me. (It’s never just me, by the way. More people than you probably realize, give a shit.)
It’s not enough. It’s never enough. Nothing I do is enough. But it’s something. To you – the one I know is reading this – and you know who you are, I’m so proud of you. You are stronger than you know. I know you want to be a teacher one day, and it’s hard. But if anyone can do it, it’s you. If anyone can love, care for, and empathize with his students, it’s you.
You are valuable, and you are loved. And one day, you might save someone’s life like Mrs. Moore saved yours.
I am blessed to know you.