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Loving the Tough Ones

Today I was reminded of the importance of education. At the start of a new school year there is always a lot of talk about the dynamics of a classroom. How many kids in your class? How many girls? How many boys? Any siblings of previous students? And then there are more sobering stats. Like nearly half of the students in one primary classroom don’t live with their parents. They live with grandparents, aunts, friends…but not their parents. Or three students in the same classroom have a parent in jail. Other teachers joined the conversation. More parents in jail. Several students who live with grandparents. There are children who are dealing with loss and tragedy and grief.

I was heart broken listening about the lives of too many young children.

And then I realized they are exactly where they need to be: school. It is here they will find love no matter what their background is. It is here they will find knowledge. It is here they will find the means to a successful life. And if they are really lucky, they will find a writing workshop where they can find their voice and learn how it can change the world. I find the spark ignited once again to love families who are struggling, to love children who are confused, and to teach students to find the power of their own voices.

Snippets of this quote tumbled around my mind today, so I had to look it up and find it. I thought I should share it here too.

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work. 

—Mother Teresa



Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

10 thoughts on “Loving the Tough Ones Leave a comment

  1. Thank you. It is 1:00 AM and I a still preparing for what I thought was an impossible task ahead – a class of 18 4th & 5th grade students 2+ year overage. This posting will be in my top drawer all year!


  2. Great post. I remember when I was a new teacher, someone told me that the child who is the hardest to like is the one that probably needs you the most. As you remind us, let’s work to build relationships with all children so that school can be a safe and loving place for them to grow and take risks.


  3. The first year that I taught first grade, I had two students with dads in prison and one student who’s mother had committed suicide the summer before. I found time to let these kids “talk” and let them know that there would be no judgement. They soon felt comfortable enough to share things in the class community. That Christmas we made scrap books to send to the two parents in prison (did you know that you can’t send anything with glue or magic marker to a state prison? I didn’t either, but the kids knew and informed me) We took pictures of the kids doing everyday activities around the school and the kids journaled on each page.

    I got two of the most heart wrenching thank you notes from those dads. They had both been in prison when these children entered school for the first time. Neither had seen his child’s school, teachers, playground, etc.

    We ended our year with a poetry slam. Two of these students chose to include poems about their parents in our publication and out-loud at the slam. After hearing a seven year old recite a poem about his dead mother and another seven year old recite a poem about his absent father, there was not a dry eye in the house.

    It was one of the most emotional moments in my teaching career and yet, it was also one of my proudest. These kids finally had a voice…


  4. Your post reminds me of a story I heard on the “Evening News with Brian Williams” tonight:

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    No matter what circumstances children have facing them outside of school, it’s our (collective) responsibility to make sure life is as perfect as can be inside the schoolhouse doors.


  5. What a great reminder . . . I love the idea of giving students a workshop where they can find their voice. That really struck a chord. As always, thank you for being so open, honest, and genuine.


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