Student Voice Truths around the Holidays
I spoke to some more students last month even though I do so on a daily basis. Students of all ages. Students who all feel the spirit or stress of the holiday season in some way. That is the basis of this collection. I hope that the quotes below sensitize our communities and schools, our businesses and fundraising pursuits, our gift-giving and outdoor-holiday-light-stringing because these voices are the true "Salvation Army" . . . the army of inadvertently ignored youth who have more going on in their lives than we can possibly imagine. While there were many positive quotes about the enjoyment of the holidays, giving and receiving gifts, drinking hot cocoa, and having off from school, there are other narratives that we should think about. Certainly, this post is not meant to depress you, but rather invigorate you to be cognizant of the daily conversations and behaviors that we all engage in during the holidays--a reflection of both sides of the holiday coin.
I have the luxury of speaking to educators and students across the nation. I asked one simple question like Rebecca Coda and I report on in our book,
How do the holidays make you feel--both in school and at home?
And . . . here is what I documented, verbatim . . .
"I see my teachers exchanging gifts and it makes me sad because my friends and I don't have much money to do something like that for each other. I'm not saying that they shouldn't do it. I'm just telling the truth like you asked me to." --Kelly, Grade 5
"I love my mom, but she lays on the couch on Christmas and usually just gets high. I go to my room and listen to music just to get away from it all." --Luis, Grade 4
"My clothes are starting to stink. I'm embarrassed to go to school because the other kids look at me funny. They have their Christmas sweaters on and their new kicks. I feel my face turning red and can only stare at the ground." --Keneisha, Grade 6
"I can get some good deals at the Dollar Store . . . you know, they have some turkey dinners in the coolers in back. My brothers and I go and try to grab 5 of them so we can have it on Christmas Eve." --Rodney, Grade 6
"I don't want to be off from school. I know people will think I'm weird if I say that, but I get breakfast and lunch there. I see my friends. Now, I will be alone for 2 weeks." --Sarah, Grade 10
"I dunno . . . I kinda . . . uh . . . get anxious in school especially in December. My dad was killed last year on Christmas Eve. Shot in the face. [starts to cry]. I miss him. Christmas means nothing to me but painful memories." --Emory, Grade 12
"It's tough to keep my grades up because I'm trying to work to help feed my two sisters and grandma. I want to get them some gifts . . . you know, something to open up . . . some toys for Natalie . . . some make-up for Kaylee, but it is just all too hard. My teachers yell at me for coming in late. I worked last night and got off at 7:00 a.m. and school starts at 8:00. I just wanted to close my eyes for a little while. They just don't understand." --Abby, Grade 12
"Santa Claus likes rich kids better." --Daphne, Grade 7
These are just some of the narratives that broke my heart. All I could do was comfort these students and listen to them. I put some money from my wallet in a few envelopes and slipped it into their book bags when they weren't looking. I thanked them for talking with me. I asked them if they were OK. Maybe that was all they needed from me at that moment in time on that particular day when I could talk with them 1:1.
Pushing Boundaries is committed to working on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations with amazing thought leaders, such as Steve Sostak and Aarom Moniz from Inspire Citizens. After reading the student narratives above, notice the impact that their stories have on the 17 goals below and the change that needs to happen within our global, not just local communities.
We are in the greatest profession on earth, a profession of caring and tenderness. We have biases about how things are supposed to go and we look through the lenses of our own childhood experiences and current, daily realities. I know that my discussions with kids across the nation sensitize me more and more each day. And, I truly believe that I need our students and youth just as much as they need me. We have the power to help one another or, at the very least, listen, understand, and change how we do business each day to make everyone have, perhaps, a better day in a challenging and, sometimes, very cold world.
Join the Let Them Speak! Movement as we encourage our youth to work alongside us and not for us.