You are never just a teacher. I also double as a counselor, mentor, monitor, authoritarian, and administrator. Sometimes, teachers and school are the most stable aspects of some kid's lives. I unwittingly get thrown into roles I am neither trained or completely comfortable with. For example, when I taught law, students would ask me about their "cousins" because they got in trouble over immigration, driving, or any other aspect of the law. I wasn't qualified or trained.
On Tuesday, I had a student come to me crying because she didn't have anybody else to turn to. I consider that quite the vote of confidence, but also rather frightening. Who did I think I was helping Lesley make important life decisions? First, her mother was suicidal to the point that Lesley had to miss most of a semester to take care of and monitor her. Because of this, her parents were getting a divorce. Her cousin in Mexico who was taking care of her grandparents got onto a list of the drug cartels. And to top it all of, her brothers and cousins living with her had gotten themselves into some Latin street gangs. She believed one of her cousins was behind, or knew who was involved in a drive by shooting at one of our schools the previous week. The shooting put an innocent girl in critical condition. She had been taken out of the room to talk to our building SROs, but didn't know whether to share what she knew.
This was one of the few times I considered giving out my personal contact information in case she needed somebody to talk to, or to be someplace else. I only considered. Dan, one of my coworkers stepped in and helped a student. He sent a student to California for a wrestling camp, fundraising, an bankrolling the whole operation himself. He taught the kid how to weight lift and work out. Dan did this because he cared, and the student's deadbeat parents refused to lift a finger for their son. The deadbeat dad got jealous, and called the school and police on Dan. He was escorted out of he building by police, and not allowed in until he was proven innocent. That is how our society rewards teachers who go above and beyond. That story was in the back of my mind when I decided I couldn't get personally involved.
The most I could do was to offer my paltry advice. Because Lesley was spending so much time taking care of and advising other people, I recommended she find time to do something for herself. She needed to escape the frame of mind she was in, otherwise she would be an enabler. Lesley rattled off a list of hobbies and activities she would like to do. I told her what I do. She seemed to appreciate and enjoy that suggestion. However she interpreted that advice, Lesley has been in class ever since. I sure do hope playing psychiatrist for 50 minutes did some good. I wish I could have done more. That seems to be a continual theme.