"Yes, but..." Time to Get This Done!

     A few weeks ago,  I had the unique pleasure of presenting at an elementary school assembly as a visiting author.  It wasn't just any school; this school is my alma mater.  Behind me, you'll notice a picture of the school from 1974. I was in first grade at the time.  Whitesides Elementary has since become a Title I school and speaking to these students as a graduate who has gone on to be a lifelong teacher, write books, and present across the U.S. was particularly relevant.  My theme(s), of course:  "You can do anything!"  "Believe in your dreams!"  "Let nothing stop you!" "You can overcome (and reading and writing are key to getting there)!"  Do I believe everything I said?  Yes, but...
     I also teach in a Title I school.  In fact, I've spent almost half of my career working in these settings.  We can't do enough to encourage these students to love education, overcome adversity, and become people with purpose who contribute to society.  We are their role models and everything we model matters.  
     One of the great moments during the assembly was honoring one student in the crowd.  He lives right next door to my parents as they still reside in my childhood home.  I had him stand up and bow to his fellow students as they cheered and clapped.  This one minute of spotlight, this one minute of being praised and encouraged, is just a drop in the bucket for him.  This boy suffered the sudden death of his mother this year (she was only 40) and lost an older brother a year ago who is in prison for shooting and killing a teenager during a drug deal gone bad.  The shooting occurred right across the street from this student's (and my parents') home.  The struggles this little man has faced in his 10 years and those he will continue to face due to circumstances far beyond his control are immense.  My hope for him, and all his schoolmates, is to overcome.  But...
     Whitesides Elementary, like the school I currently teach in, doesn't have a full-time counselor, a full-time psychologist, or a full-time social worker to help families in crisis.  I don't know what support, if any, this young boy has received.  I know, given the caseload of the part-time professionals I work with in my school, if he's received help, it is not enough.  I wonder what the future holds for him and I pray he doesn't follow in his brother's footsteps.  As teachers, we do our best to support all students, and lend extra support and care to those in need.  But, we are not trained mental health professionals.  Given the current school climate and the talk of arming teachers to defend against mass shootings, I wonder what the future holds for us all.  We need common sense answers.  One thing is certain, we need more support.   I know where we can start.  We NEED full-time counselors.  We NEED full-time psychologists.  We NEED social workers in our schools.  No more, 'Yes, buts...'  Let's just get this done. 

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