My students keep their backpacks on the backs of their chairs.
Some are neat with everything in their place. Planners are tucked in a pocket, snacks are zipped neatly into a pouch, and gloves and hats are snuggled into the nooks and crannies.
And then there are other backpacks. The ones that are overflowing, stuffed full and jumbled. Drawings and lunch boxes spill over the sides, and occasionally a pink stuffed animal peeks its head out.
There’s one more category: the ones where I can tell that a child’s life is in disarray. Papers are crumpled, extra clothes are stuffed inside, and it’s pretty clear that no one has looked in their backpack since August.
When I walk around the classroom and I happen to catch a glance inside the different backpacks hanging on chairs, it reminds me.
It reminds me that it’s my responsibility to provide the safety and structure that ALL students need – I know for some students it may be the safest and most structured part of their life.
It reminds me that I have to be patient and kind – I have to keep the whole child in mind, not just the student part I see at school every day.
It reminds me that, first and foremost, the people I share my day with are children – they aren’t just mini-adults. They are still learning (in school AND in life) and I owe it to them to support them when they make mistakes, not turn it against them.
It reminds me to take a step back and *think* about the individuals who lives are represented in those backpacks – they need me to appreciate who they are and what they need.
Every now and again the universe sends me a reminder like this, just when I need it. It stops me in my tracks and makes me rethink. I smile at my students more, really listen when they tell me a story, and make sure that I give them grace when they need it. (And hugs if they want them…)
This beautiful mess of a job is so much more than imparting knowledge…and I appreciate the reminder.