I remember working with a student who was having behavioral difficulties, and was often falling asleep in class. Getting to know him and his mom, I learned that they lived in a motel room off the highway. Mom worked in a fast food restaurant. Most of the time, she worked the closing shift, meaning she did not get home until close to midnight. This meant her son was alone in a motel room in a sketchy part of town from the time he arrived home from school until mom got home from work. This also meant he had to wait until close to midnight to get supper. Supper by the way, was the leftovers from the fast food restaurant.
Each year around this time, I wonder what ever happened to them. I wonder how happy their holiday season was. I wonder how that child felt when winter break began for him? He wouldn't be getting school breakfast or lunch, just whatever mom would be bringing home from work late at night? I wonder what that stuff tasted like the next day? I can only imagine what it was like being in a drafty motel room day in and day out for two weeks while mom worked. Were there presents? Was there a proper Christmas dinner? I know they had no other family, and that must have been lonely. The student eventually ended up living in a home for boys somewhere in the southwestern part of the state, and mom vacated the hotel room. I'm not exactly sure where she ended up.
I bring this up because it is important for us as educators to remember that the holiday season is different for everyone. While I'm happily bounding out the door on the day winter break begins, I know there are others who aren't looking forward to these coming weeks. Do they get to go home to heat, light, good food, and a safe place to call home? Not always.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives this season, whether we are thriving or surviving. In the coming weeks, be mindful of those you work with. While these can be times of joy, excitement, and wonder; they can also be times of stress, sadness and despair. Even those of us with a roof over our heads and plenty to eat can feel down this time of year. This may be due to the recent loss of a loved one, or financial stress from a recent layoff or pay cuts so easy to get wrapped up in our own. In your actions and conversations, keep in mind the reason for the season. Be sure to model and celebrate those things we call can learn and grow from: compassion, kindness, and, thankfulness.