Please take care of my babies.
This afternoon I received an email from a mom who is going through a recently discovered medical issue. A big one. She wrote to tell me what was going on and ended her message by writing, "If anything should happen, please take care of my babies."
I wish I could tell you that was the first email I have ever received that said something that serious. Or even the tenth. If anything should happen...
Of course the answer is yes. Of course we, I, would take care of her children, whether that meant in school or taking them home. How often do we tell others, "I love my students like they were my own kids." Have you ever had to prove it? If you've been in education more than a handful of years the answer is probably yes.
I have a friend who was a principal in a neighboring school district. She had been working very closely with a single mom for almost a year when that mom came to school and asked, "Please take my boys. You know I can't take care of them. If you meant what you told me about loving them like they were your own take them." And she was gone. The boys sitting there in her office not knowing what would happen to them. She took them home and eight years later they are her sons.
If anything should happen.
Parents do get sick. Accidents happen. They are there one day and gone the next. Who else do families turn to? They don't go to the pediatrician...they're too busy and only spend a few minutes with the kids, they don't really know them. The distant aunt and uncle? The babysitter? The cashier at the grocery? They all see the kids more than the pediatrician... No. Families come to school. We do love our kids like they were our own. Over the course of the six years that I have my kiddos, I spend about 154 weeks with them. I meet them when they register, most of them still four years old. Or I meet them when they are born because they have older siblings. Or I taught their parents. The connections are real and they are meaningful.
Perhaps you teach. You just became a principal. Or you're thinking about it. The time may come when you have to make a decision about what to do in a dire situation so it's worth thinking about.
The take home on this post is that educators aren't just professional babysitters, as if you need to be reminded. We are raising children, yes, but we are also raising families in many cases. It's a big deal. The weight of our words and actions should weigh heavy on us as we search for the words to comfort, advise, or assist a family. Few other professions carry such a load.
If anything should happen.
And then there's "the fear" we all carry. How many have laid down their lives for their students in that moment where terror becomes real? School shootings barely receive a mention unless they are local or involve mass casualties they've become so common. We don't do our jobs in spite of this potential. We walk in knowing. It's that important.
If you are a teacher or administrator, revisit that unspoken importance with yourself. You are a hero in every sense of the word. If you are a family member of a student? Or a student? We got you. (IMHO "I got you" is the most powerful thing you can say.)
If anything should happen, we got you.