Friday, April 25, 2014

Year 4: Week 31 – Divorce

Once upon a time teachers could safely assume their students had a mother and a father at home. Teachers could write letters home and not have to check if there was an additional address they had to send the letter. Once upon a time divorce wasn’t “normal.”

When I was in grade school I knew of at least three of four of my classmates who had divorced parents. Honestly, I was envious. They talked about having multiple, houses and multiple parents. One of my classmates had two dads and three different moms and spent time in three different houses because of divorces and his parents getting remarried. The way he talked about it made it seem like an adventure.

From a child’s perspective, all it seemed to mean was that this kid had more parents and another house. I loved my parents and my house so how could having more of this stuff be a bad thing.

For a while, I didn’t really think about divorce until I became a teacher.

When I started off as a teacher I was surprised when I saw more than one address listed for a student and often more than two parents listed in the directory. At times, I was told that I needed to make sure to send emails to both parents because they didn’t live together. You just couldn’t assume anything as a teacher about a kid’s family.

Instead of being the exception that we don’t have to think about, children of divorced parents have become the minority that we have to ensure does not feel disenfranchised. For example, when they study the family tree in Spanish, all students are encouraged to use celebrities and cartoon characters as family members instead of their own families so students of divorced parents don’t feel awkward about the complexity of their branches.

The reason this is coming to mind now is because of a rant by one of my students in class this week. He didn’t have his materials for class because he had just switched houses for the week. The students sitting next to him asked him why he didn’t simply have doubles of this material (which is something we often provide students who live in different houses). Try as he did, he couldn’t make this other kid understand that you can’t simply have two of everything. Underneath these words was the feeling that he didn’t want to need two of everything.

The other student couldn’t understand his frustration, not because he wasn’t trying, but because there was no way he could. His parents were not divorced.

This is one of those teacher moments when I express empathy but I don’t deign and say that I understand how he’s feeling, because I don’t. My parents are not divorced and I don’t get how it feels, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t help.

Divorce is not always a bad thing. Many times, it’s the best thing for a couple. However often there’s fallout that we as teachers deal with everyday.  The world is extremely unfair to children. They don’t choose the family situations they are born into but they have to deal with the consequences of their parents’ choices.  It’s our job as teachers to help students work through feeling bad and blaming themselves for parts of their lives that they can't control.  You may not  know what to say but you can always be there for them and sometimes that can make all the difference.  

1 comment:

  1. My fiance has divorced parents and we are planning a wedding so the mom, dad, step-mom situation has proven tiresome. But I think about our children and how time with grandparents will be divided.