As I stated in a previous post, my students write in weekly journals (green essays, we call them), responding to a prompt that varies from humorous to quite serious, with a focus on many genres. This week, my students had to respond to: "What do you worry about? Why does it worry you? How is your life affected, and how might you be able to solve the problem?
AA, an incredibly sweet, soft-spoken, shy little girl who celebrated her eighth birthday last week, responded with an essay that so touched me I had tears in my eyes. Many of my students wrote about worries children should never experience - thoughts of death from violence, a disabling accident, a single parent losing a job and thus a home - while several wrote regarding worrying about getting good grades, succeeding in school, making our school drill team, and so forth. Many wrote about worrying about their parents and other family members. Not one of them wrote about worrying about sharing a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in a gang-infested building with seven family members, or needing a winter coat that wasn't three sizes too small, or wearing tennis shoes with holes until they literally feel apart because there is not one extra dollar for a new pair.
I generally write a few lines along with the score I give a student. Today I wrote over a page to many of my students, reassuring them of skills they possess, of the love of a parent in prison, of the beauty they bring to my life and to the lives of others, and that the world was not going to end in 2012 (I'm fairly certain of this, though one can never be 100% positive. This student was so terrified that she would not see her life beyond the age of 10, and I had to relieve her anxiety). I shared a few of their essays with a colleague and dear friend. She reiterated what I'd been feeling as I read my students' work - "I have nothing to worry about."
Here is AA's essay:
I worry about homeless people because they don't have food, water, money and a place to live. Every time I walk in the streets I see an old man sitting on the ground wearing old ripped clothes. He's always asking for money. I see people pass and not helping him.
One day I was sitting in the park with my family and I saw the old homeless man getting food from the trash can. When we saw him do that we felt bad for him, so my dad got up and bought him food and gave it to him, but he didn't want it.
I got sad because he didn't get the food. I think he didn't get the food because he didn't know us. Last time I went to the market to buy bread. When we were going home, I saw him and I gave him bread and my toy. When I saw his face he looked at the toy like he never had one. Every time I see him I ask my mom for money so I could it to him. When I give it to him I feel happy because I helped him.