Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Being a teacher means you're given a certain level of trust from your students. The come to your class every day trusting you're going to take care of them, to guide them, to create a safe space for them to learn in. Unfortunately, that protection only extends as far as the classroom doors, and it's your responsibility to take action when a student tells you their life outside school walls isn't so great.

Reddit user, u/RickAstley_Withagun, wanted to hear what it's really like for kids when they asked:

Teachers of reddit what is the most depressing thing a student has told you about their home life?

This Is My Barbie

Every week, I'd let students earn raffle tickets which would potentially allow them to choose a prize, such as bringing in a "Show and Tell" or picking a prize from my treasure chest. Anyways, one day, a student brings in her favorite doll. This leads all the girls to start talking about their favorite dolls. One student, privately tells me that she never had a doll before. This made sense because the child was homeless, wore the same dirty outfit nearly every day, often stole from teachers and classmates because she became adapted to survival of the fittest mode, and her parents were out of the picture.

That night I went to Toys R Us right after school. The next week I made sure this girl won a prize and stocked my treasure chest with a brand new Teacher and student Barbie set. Well, this child picked the Barbie right away. The most touching part about this story was when she asked if she could "Show and Tell" her new Barbie. I said "sure." At the beginning of her "Show and Tell" she introduced the student Barbie as her name and the teacher Barbie as being my name. I was so touched.


A Perfectly Justifiable Reason

Got a message today about why a student could not come to class yesterday.

"Sorry I couldn't come to class, there were gunshots right outside my apartment and I thought I was going to die. The police did come eventually and I had to give a statement. I will get the work from yesterday done today. Thanks.'

Yea you get that extension.


Awake At Her Post

Taught at an inner city charter school. Had a bright 6th grade girl who started sleeping during my classes, which was not like her. When I asked after school what was up, she told me that her family (her, two younger sisters, and crackhead mom) moved into the homeless shelter and the last time she slept through the night, all their stuff got stolen.


Not The One's You Think At Home

Five year old girl was crying at the lunch table. I tell her she's going to see her mom soon and it's ok. I don't know her very well at this point. She goes, "my mom's in jail." So I quickly go, "your dad, then." And she goes "he's in jail, too." Her twin sister says, "we live with our grandma." I'm about to cry at this point so I ask if they need anything, can I get them anything. They ask for candy. I always carry caramels in my purse because these are safe candies and the kids love them and know I have them. I gave them each a handful of caramels and sat with them until their grandma came an hour later. We colored together. They each saved caramels for their grandma. I'll never forget those two little girls.


When You're In Charge Of Kids, Don't Assume Anything

Had one young man who had strange round markings on his arms I couldn't figure out. Looked little bit like vaccine scars. Figured maybe some scarification thing from his culture I didn't know about (live in a melting pot country). We had a pretty good relationship, so I asked him.

Nope. Cigarette burns from when he was a baby that had grown up with him.


Pill? Or Toy In Disguise?

I had a girl playing with something while sitting at the carpet. Rolling it back and forth and putting it in her mouth and taking it out and rolling it around again. I told her to give it to me when the other students started their independent work. She gave me this large green pill. At recess I ask her about it and she says her mom and dad give her and her siblings one of these every night to make them sleep. I take the pill to admin and tell them what she told me before searching Google images to find out what it could be.

I find a short list and go back to admin and I'm told it isn't my job to worry about that. I try several times that day to get answers and they say they think it's melatonin so stop over stepping my place. This girl and her siblings are in and out of foster care and come to school with no food and filthy clothes. She came to school in a sweatshirt covered in dried blood 3 days in a row. Her parents wouldn't even sign the papers to get the kids the free school lunches, I forged the moms signature every month.


Only Good Boys Get To Sleep

His parents would only give him a pillow and blankets for his bed if he had all A's. I contacted the school counselor and it was true, along with the fact that all of the food was locked away and he was only given specific amounts per day. Per DCFS this was not considered abuse. I made a deal with him that as long as he was doing his best, his grade would never drop below an A. He teared up.


Action Dictates Nature

I kept having this kid come and sleep in the 1st period. I mean that's normal for high school. One day I made pancakes as a treat and the kid didn't sleep, they ended up staying up and ate 6 pancakes. Later the kid told me they often don't eat breakfast because their parents don't buy food. When they have extra money it goes to buying alcohol. After hearing that I went and bought Breakfast foods and left them out for anyone to take. The kid didn't sleep after that.


A Letter To Change Your Life

I had a girl miss several lessons last term. I was concerned about her progress in class and followed up on the absences. Next time I saw her, we had a wee chat and she said she was really struggling with home stuff. The following day, she appeared very early with a letter and asked me to read it after she left.

The letter stated that she was unable to tell her story out loud but she wanted me to know. Her story detailed a difficult home situation. I have redacted the details out of respect for the pupil as I had no idea this would become so popular and well-read.

It completely floored me. I had lessons starting in 15 minutes, but I couldn't stop crying. It felt awful that this strong, silent young girl could brave coming to class with the weight of this on her shoulders.

So we worked out how to make school feel safer for her. She struggles to be around lots of people and near doorways without a trusted adult nearby. She's terrified that he appears in school to take her.

So we spend our break and lunch in my class, playing games and watching silly videos on YouTube. If she has a bad day, I'll walk her to her bus. I make sure she's seated away from the door and nearby a friend or my desk. It's not much but every little bit helps her feel safer.


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