We Cry At Lunch

I had a class last year right before lunch with one table of all athletes – really good at their sports, and super-serious about school. They were a perfect match for each other, helping when needed, asking for help when needed, having each other’s backs always.

During one particularly stressful portion of the year, one of the girls said “I think I’m gonna cry.” and one of her table mates responded: “We don’t cry in math. We cry at lunch after math.” I think she was joking.

I think.

I have a student right now who hates the class after mine so much she spends the last five minutes of my class on the verge of tears, every day. Honestly, I know how she feels sometimes.

And you probably do too.

We’ve talked Friday playlist in this space before. The one that kicks off with 13-year-old Rebecca Black singing about everyone’s favorite day.

You might know the story of the bullying she endured for years after the song’s release. And then maybe lost track of her, because, well, our social feeds are constantly dumping new shiny things at us and today’s news is yesterday’s news before we fall asleep.

Rebecca Black herself addressed the issue online, and has been making the media rounds as of late, nine years later as her singing career continues on the upswing.

Caught her on KROQ not that long ago. Take a few minutes to click through and watch the interview. You don’t have to be around kids 180 days a year to be heartbroken by hearing her tell the stories herself.

Not sure how to fix that, except do my part to not be a jerk just in general, but especially not in school. To kids.

Then former Bulls star Ben Gordon told his story too. You obviously don’t have to look too far to find people who are hurting, even as they hide in plain sight.

Last month I volunteered at our parish’s middle school youth retreat. Since it’s 2020, the theme was “God’s Perfect Vision”. The opening keynote mentioned how our brains fill in for the limited amount of information that our eyes take in. That we literally don’t see the full picture.

Afterwards I led a small group discussion of kids, future students of mine, from our parish’s Hispanic ministry. I asked them, “Think of a time when someone didn’t see the whole you.”

Thats all the prompt they needed.

Oh, the stories. Racial taunting. Bullying. School discipline being unevenly applied. “Oh, you know, they got that money so they got off with a ‘I’m so sorry that happened to you’ while I got suspended for getting called names.”

Our kids deal with some serious stuff on the daily. I mean, we all do, but as grown-ups we’ve developed some coping mechanisms that come with experience and maturity.

I teach 8th grade religious education at my parish, and have for the last 10 years. I’m in my 17th year of teaching high school students math in its various and sundry forms. And I’ve said it all along, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back and be a high school student today. It’s brutal out there. And no amount of training will fix that completely. We just gotta do what we can do to be human and take care of our young humans as best we can.

And take care of ourselves too

But I’m worried that soon even that might not be enough.

If this pandemic goes where some of the models suggest it might, the grades My Type-A kids get for the fourth quarter are gonna be the least of their worries. My state canceled school until at least May 1. Today Virginia became the second state to institute e-learning for the remainder of the year. Italy, with a population one-sixth that of the US, is counting deaths in the hundreds day after day. I’m super-pessimistic about the next few months. I intentionally kept those feelings from my students in the last week of classes. They are mini-adults, but that’s not the kind of news you can just drop on them and leave. What I do know is, whenever we come back, the world is going to be an uglier place than the one we left.

The skills we’re going to need to teach our kids the next time we see them, well, they didn’t teach that stuff in teacher school. A once-in-a-century pandemic is going to leave us with a school mental health challenge the likes of which we’ve never faced before.

We’re all gonna cry at lunch pretty soon.

Author: thedullguy

High School Math/PLTW teacher, Valparaiso High School, Valparaiso, IN. Opinions mine.

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