Looking Through the Darkness

I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As a student I was always helping other classmates to study, helping with exams and helping with after school study. When I began my teacher training I would have thought I was very realistic and prepared for what the job would entail. I knew I would have behaviour issues, I knew some children would need more help than others, I knew there would be different learning styles and abilities, I knew not all students would like me, I knew about the long days and the work I would have to bring home with me. Despite all of this I still wanted to do it to make a difference and help students find their potential. What I was not prepared for was the emotional  impact and the heartbreak I could potentially face. I did not think about the children being sick, some terminally, students loosing people close to them, students who come from a bad home life, and the students who have no body to rely on but you. How do teachers as human beings prepare for this? Honestly I do not think we can.

In the schools I have worked in so far I have come across students who have nothing, the students from dysfunctional families and students who have lost those closest to them. In the moments I thought my heart would break. Different people deal with this is different ways. I talked to other teachers and to friends and family (omitting names of course). I also cried for these students and for how unfair their young lives seemed to be but when I was with the students I put on a friendly smile and made sure I was there for them in a supportive role. What I found most difficult is encountering the students who have serious illness. This effected me in a different way. I think this is because there is no way I can physically help them to get better. I can support and offer guidance but I cannot fight the illness. I feel helpless.

I have been struggling to deal with this for a time now but this week I met someone who offered great insight and support even if he did not realise. This person was a chaplain. He has seen a lot of the world and has encountered heartbreak and disaster numerous times. When he was asked how he dealt with this and the effect it has on him personally he said that even in the worst situations light and love in some form can be found. He used the recent Berkley tragedy as an example. Even throughout the horror of the accident the sense of togetherness and support offered by students across Ireland and America created a beacon of love and light in the darkness.

The lesson I learned from this man is that to always look beyond the sadness or tragedy and find some hope. In a school this could be in the form of friendship, love, community, support, family, small acts of kindness. Even in the worst situations there is always some light if we are willing to look. If someone passes away we have the love they leave behind. If someone is sick we have the support from friends and family. If someone has a bad home life we have the care and support from friends or teachers. If there is no light we should try to help create it. This lesson I think is very important for teachers especially RE teachers to embrace in order to help deal with the stories we will hear all the time. Next time I have a child in a bad situation I am going to try look beyond the pain to find the light and help the student to see the light also. This is how I can help in the situations which feel out of my control and what I intend on doing from this point onwards.
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