This I Believe

Jessica - Saint Petersburg, Florida
Entered on February 19, 2007

Children deserve the equal opportunity to be carefree.

I believe that all children deserve the equal opportunity to be carefree.

I am a Music Teacher at an Arts Magnet Elementary School that is located in the heart of a low socio-economic, neighborhood. The Arts Program attracts families from all over the county, with Racial and Economic Integration as its primary goal.

I have two kinds of students, those who are care free, and those who are stressed, and I have observed that the only real difference between these students’ capacity to learn (with the exception of learning disabilities), is that the carefree students have emotional and physical health, and the stressed students don’t.

My carefree students come from a stable home environment, where most everything is provided for them. My stressed students have to cope with a wide array of issues like not getting fed regularly, no place to live, an unsafe living environment, and emotional and physical abuse, which is obvious, because many of them have hardened souls by the age of seven.

After having a personal crisis, my divorce, in my 6th year of teaching, I was forced to think about my own stress and the affect it has on me. In an effort to understand my stress, I began to look at people around me, including my students. I observed that many of my students have stress as a constant in their lives, and that unlike me, who grew up as a carefree kid; many of them have had emotional and physical distress from birth. Some of my stressed students are so fatigued that they can’t keep their eyes open; some cry every day, some get angry and act out. Many need to get attention, so they behave badly, and get in trouble. They do things that are not appropriate for the classroom. They are blamed for not wanting to learn.

I began to understand how emotional and physical stress affects productivity. When I am physically exhausted, or emotionally distraught, or something ails my soul, my creative energy is blocked, and I am unable to make progress of any kind. I’m not immune to stress, but stress isn’t normal for me, so when it happens, it’s manageable, but now that I know this, I have to ask: How can I expect my stressed students to be productive and learn when I know that their stress is constant and not manageable?

I can apply my own awareness of the effect emotional and physical stress has on productivity, and I realize that many of my students are constantly stressed. I believe, with empathy and compassion, that all children deserve the equal opportunity to be carefree. I believe that no child should get left behind, but until they all get their basic needs met, there will always be many that do get left behind.