‘I received devastating news about a past student of mine. The kind of news that shakes you to your core.’

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“Today I received devastating news about a past student of mine. The kind of news that shakes you to your core. The kind of news that sucks the air out of the room and leaves you scrambling to take a breath. The kind of news that will have you wondering how in the world you’ll be able to teach the rest of the day as if nothing has happened.

Today was hard. All caps. HARD.

When I went into the teaching profession, people told me it would be difficult. The state testing will be crushing. Student behaviors will be challenging. The pay will be dismal.

But this news? Nobody prepared me for that. Nobody prepared me for the fact that every year, 28 (or 32) students would become MINE. Their happiness? Mine to celebrate. Their despair and sorrow? Mine to bear. Their anxieties? Mine to worry about. Nobody told me that I would lay awake at night sometimes feeling crushed under the weight of all their stories. It’s like E.E. Cummings once wrote, ‘I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).’ I didn’t realize that their hearts would become so intertwined with my own that I sometimes didn’t know where one ended and the other one began.

No one ever mentioned how burned out this would make me feel. Probably because it sounds awful to say out loud. But it’s true. And it’s real. Sometimes the weight of the world on your shoulders just becomes too much.

The student with tears in his eyes because his dad is in jail and he hasn’t seen him in months.

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

The student ripping up his math test because he failed yet again and knows what his dad will do about it when he gets home.

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

The student staring into space because her older sister ran away and they can’t find her.

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

The student who never speaks up because it has been made clear at home that her thoughts have no value.

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

The student who can’t focus because her family was just evicted and she’s wondering where they are going to sleep that night.

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

The student throwing his chair across the room because he’s so angry about his parent’s divorce and it’s the only way he knows to let off steam.

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

They don’t tell you that these hurts don’t fade away when the school year ends. They stay with you. Year after year. Burying themselves deep in your soul. And they sneak up on you when you least expect it.

Some years are harder than others. Last year almost broke me. Really broke me. Their stories left me crying at the end of every day; ‘I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!’ This year? My heart feels lighter.

When you work in a Title 1 school, these stories are everywhere you turn. Poverty has a way of magnifying issues. But you know what they also didn’t tell me? That these same stories that weigh you down are what make the job worth it. They are what will keep you going every day. Every year. There is something amazing about watching a student find joy in the midst of sorrow. Triumph when everything is against them. These students have taught me the importance of really SEEING people. Of actually listening when they tell me how their day is. Of hugging just a little tighter; longer.

As hard as they may be to hear, these stories mean love. They mean another child feels safe enough to give you a piece of their heart. A piece that will stay with you forever.

So tonight; I will cry. I will allow myself to feel the pain of this story. Then tomorrow I will get back at it. Because their stories are what make it worth it.

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart).”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelsey Lamar. It originally appeared here. To submit your story, click here. For our best love stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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