Teachers – Healing Broken Lives
“What you care for, anyway? Why you care? Nobody cares—nobody!”
“I do care. I care because I have three boys. I want a good life for them, and I want you to have a good life, too. I care because you are one of my students, and I know you will succeed if you put your mind to it. I care because it is my responsibility to care, son.”
He broke down and cried like a baby.
by Graysen Walles Continued from page 1
April 1, 2009
A Healing Moment
Not too long ago, near the end of a school day, I was preparing for my usual hallway and classroom check. The bell had not rung, yet, but the time was nigh. As I strolled routinely down the hallway, a teacher called me as I walked by her class. She had a student in her classroom who had reportedly been involved in some gang activity, and she needed assistance dealing with the situation. Her feelings were backed up by other students, who had mentioned to me that week that this specific student had been associating himself with the gang culture and had been doing so rather consistently by participating in discussions, using hand gestures, and wearing certain apparel. When I approached the classroom, the teacher pointed him out. I motioned him toward me and he came, and he walked with me down a long hallway back to my office. Behind a closed door, I spoke with him about the allegations.
“Son, I understand that you are claiming to be in a gang. Is that true?”
“Naw,” he replied.
“Well, I understand, based on a few witnesses that you have a handkerchief that you have been flashing in the bathroom and in the hallway.” This is a notorious tradition of gang members. “Are you in a gang?” I asked.
“No, I ain’t in no gang. I ain’t claimin’ nothin’.”
Soon thereafter, I started to call the parents of the student. It was at this point that he began to break down. “Please don’t call my momma and daddy, sir. I ain’t in no gang. I was just playin’ around in the bathroom.”
“Flashing handkerchiefs is not a game. People take the action seriously and someone could have been hurt today as a result of your actions.”
“What you care for, anyway? Why you care? Nobody cares—nobody!”
As I sat there, looking at this kid, I was thinking, “Wow, what a statement: ‘Nobody cares anyway.’” I bet a lot of kids feel this way, but it is far from the truth. I know, because millions of teachers throughout our school systems in America and around the world do care. Thousands of administrators stay up late in the evening designing programs because they care. Counselors and school staff drive to homes in the roughest of neighborhoods because they care. Teachers pick students up for school because the parent has no way to take them. Educators do care, and they care a lot because most love their students and the education field.
As my mind returned to the immediate situation, I decided that, rather than discipline this kid, I would talk with him. “I do care, and I care because I have three boys. I want a good life for them, and I want you to have a good life, too. I care because you are one of my students, and I know you will succeed if you put your mind to it. I care because it is my responsibility to care, son.” He broke down and cried like a baby.
Healing Broken Lives
I bet few teachers consider the fact that they are in the healing business. Not physical healing, but healing of the psychological and spiritual variety. Many young people walk through the doors of schools with a spirit that has been broken from inconceivable neglect and minds that have been abused from violence. Essentially, teachers are 21st century healers, as they often confront broken souls, minds and bodies--kids depend on us and often turn to us for help.
The young man in my story is a mere microcosm of the beliefs of our young learners; so many of them have been challenged with so many negative situations that they really do feel that the world is more against them than for them. Their outlook on life is pessimistic and dreadfully untrusting. For some teachers, it only takes a quick reflection on the past to be reminded of the pain and trauma of their own childhood and teenage years.
Ours is a profession that has the power to heal the many broken spirits and minds that burden and sometimes hold back our learners from progressing in life. A little patience, kindness, and empathy can be the impetus for a healing process—for both students and teachers. Teaching is healing, and healing only comes by way of love. Do you love your students in a way that will enable you to see and hear their pain? This is not always easy, as some students work hard to be defiant and disrespectful.
Just remember, many have been hurt enough already, which puts you in the healing business. Our calling, as teaching professionals, is to offer a community that is safe, vibrant, and forgiving, while working to maintain a consistency in rules and values that provide fairness and compassion to every student. Yes, this does include discipline. Yet, even in that, healing should be at the forefront of what we do—especially if teaching is to make a positive difference in the lives of the young people placed at our feet.
For the past 20 years, Graysen Walles has achieved notable accomplishments across a diverse industry spectrum, delivering stellar performance in the military, non-profit, and education segments. After honing his expertise in strategic planning, operations, budget management, program development, and personnel for the U.S. Air Force and two non-profit organizations, Graysen made a smooth professional transition to public education.
Initially cast in the role of Paraprofessional in a middle school, Graysen quickly advanced to a certified teaching position in the area of Special Education at the high school level. While in the role of classroom teacher, he developed curricula and led instruction in the disciplines of micro and macroeconomics, geography, and English language, creating learning frameworks that accommodated a range of learning styles for both mainstream and special education students.
While successfully managing his teaching responsibilities, Graysen took the lead in district- and school-wide improvement, fueling the critical relationship-building process with parents and members of the community to unite stakeholders in a common vision and goal and make progress towards building a cutting edge youth leadership program focused on higher performing students enrolled in under-resourced communities. The program, The Elite Scholars, actively engages over 350 students from all walks of life. The common goal of these students is to perform with excellence in the areas academics, service, faith and leadership.
Graysen achieved his doctoral degree from Fielding Graduate University; Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and B.A. from Wayland Baptist University. He currently serves in the United States Air Force Reserves and works as a school administrator in Atlanta, GA. Graysen is married with three sons and they reside in Atlanta, GA.