The beginning of a new school year is in the air.  New supplies.  Renewed energy.  A fresh start.  As a kindergarten teacher, I’m excited to see what this new school year will bring.  And I’m excited to meet my new students. 

I spent the weekend learning about my rising kindergarteners through their paperwork.  And my stomach twisted when I discovered that the father of one of my students was killed in Iraq.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me that, at some point in my teaching career, I would have a student in my class who lost a parent in Iraq or Afghanistan.  After all, I live in a military town.  Last year the father of one of my students was deployed the entire school year.  Another student, at 5 years old, could locate Iraq on a world map.  Two other teachers had deployed husbands.  Deployments were all around me.  But they always ended with a happy homecoming.

I don’t even know this little girl, but I already feel protective of her.  What will she say if a classmate asks where her father is?  How will she act when she sees other daddies with their kids?  Does she remember her dad?  Does she talk about him?  Should I avoid the topic of fathers altogether?

Sometimes I wonder if I should read my students’ files because I don’t want to form judgments about them (or their parents) before I even meet them.  But I know I have to read them.  I have to know about the peanut allergies and the hearing impairments and the recent divorces.  All of these things affect how students learn and/or interact in the classroom, and therefore affect how I teach and interact with them. 

So I’m glad that I know about this gold star family, but because I have no idea what to expect, I’m not going to make any expectations.  For all I know, this little girl will teach me a thing or two about life.  I can’t wait to meet her.


11 Comments on A New School Year, A New Student, A New Concern

  1. I lost my father at 11. Not to war, but a heart attack. I think dealing with a child who has had to experience death in such an intimate way has got to be hard on the adults in his/her life, teachers included.

    Good luck this year.

  2. Reading this post actually sent chills through my whole body. How absolutely heartbreaking and shocking. I think I am a lot like you in that even though we are surrounded by military and deployments we just always expect that it will have a happy ending. It's posts like these that remind me to say an extra prayer for all our gold star families and the sacrifices that make. Thanks for sharing RC!

  3. I'll be praying for you about that. It's not easy teaching children in any capacity without knowing the entire picture, so Hats off to you, too.

  4. I love reading your posts like this. You are the kind of teacher I love and would love my girls to have.

    I loved my daughter's kindergarten teacher here last year and she will be missed by my daughter this year since they PCS'd to FL. We got here in the middle of the year and she was so helpful and concerned about my daughter. It made the transition really easy for her because her teacher understood what was going on.

  5. That makes my stomach clench too. Anytime I hear about a gold star family it breaks my heart, it is an all too real part of this world we are living in. I am sure your student is going to be a lovely little girl and will definitely have an impact on those around her.

  6. This post is beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time.

    I agree, she might just teach you and everyone around her about life. You seem like an amazing teacher.

  7. In 3rd grade, my daughter had 2 kids in her class who lost parents. It was a rough year for our elementary school as we lost a total of 10 parents that year (to illness, to freak medical things, to an accident around the home) and we are in a small school district. It was interesting to hear the stories of how the children handled the situation of loss, how the children processed the losses. I'm glad that you are taking the time to review the files and prepare to be supportive to this child.

  8. My father was killed in Vietnam, it was just a part of who I was, never knew anything different. And I liked to talk about him, I liked when people would ask me about him. I am also the wife of Marine, and this current deployment has already found us with 4 children with no dads and they are very resilient. Adults are the ones that have issues dealing with grief and death, children are easier, they trust what we tell them. Find out what mom tells her, and that is where you will take your cues from. Mom will know.

  9. I had a little boy at the end of last year whose mother had passed away in September. I learned so much from him and he will always hold a very special place in my life. He was very frank about announcing his mom had passed away, like it didn't bother him. Other times he would burst out in tears and just need to be a 6 year old. I can't imagine being in these students' shoes.

  10. That absolutely sent chills through my body as well as tears down my face. I can understand completely how you already feel "protective" of her. I wish there was so much that I could do to help all those going through the loss of a loved one through war. It's weird, I myself have not lost either of my parents however when I read spouse blogs whom are now widows, I feel an automatic connection with them. I feel the need to read what they write. I feel the need to reach out to them and express my sorrow. I just feel the need to be there for them if I can. It sounds like you express the same feelings.

  11. Thank you so much everyone for the wonderful comments! I can already tell that I'm going to be learning as much as my students this year. šŸ™‚

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