As a teacher, I see a variety of kids every day. Some I grow very close to, others only allow me to know their name, rank and serial number. When I look at all the faces, all the potential, I often wonder what Peyton’s teachers saw when they looked at him. Did they see the smart, funny, caring little boy and young man or did they only see the depression and anxiety that often guided his actions? Did they see his creativity and wonder at so much of the world or did they only see the boy who would often lash out or cry because he just couldn’t deal with everything that was going on in his head? These thoughts often keep me up at night and fill my brain during the day. Peyton did get the love and recognition he wanted and needed from many of his teachers, but he also had many that never even noticed him or only saw him as a troubled kid. So, as I sit here in my empty classroom waiting for the next group of kids to come in, I want each of them to know that I see them.
To the student sitting quietly in her chair, hair covering her face, not making eye contact…I see you. I see how scared you are. I see how you can’t begin to figure out how or where you fit in. I see your desperate desire for the class, the day, the week, the year to come to an end so you can escape from this place that makes you so uncomfortable. I see you longing to fade to the background where nothing can hurt you.
To the student who talks the loudest and talks over his classmates…I see you. I see how you are really only trying to be heard. I see the fear of being ignored. I see you using your voice as a way to show the world that you are not to be overlooked. I see your desire to be seen and to be heard, not just by me, but by everyone.
To the student who answers every question first, who barely waits until its been asked to blurt out an answer… I see you. I see your eagerness to show me and your classmates that you really ARE smart. That you really ARE valuable. I see your need for some sort of positive attention, even if it means that other kids may not get the chance to answer. I see the despair in your eyes when I call on another student before you or when I have to privately ask you to count to 10 before giving an answer.
To the student who feels the need to always have to be in a relationship…I see you. I see the sadness behind your smile when you tell me that, although you only broke up with your boyfriend a week ago, you are already “hanging out” with someone new. I see your need to be loved by someone, anyone, so that you won’t have to feel alone. I see the love you have to give and give so freely, often at the expense of your own well-being.
To the student who often fades into the middle ground…I see you. I see you doing enough to get by and to keep your parents happy. I see you understanding and decoding so much more than you let on. I see you not taking the lead, but dutifully following those that do. I see you content with being “average” because you don’t think you deserve any more than that.
To the student who is often absent…I see you. I see the obstacles you have that may keep you from coming to school. I see the lack of support from your family or friends that makes you feel like school isn’t anything important. I see your willingness to stay home and fall behind because it’s better than being in a place where you may be bullied or teased or talked down to or ignored. I see your recognition that you do want an education, but you just don’t know how to fix the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.
To the student who seems to have it all…I see you. I see your eagerness to succeed and make something of your life. I see your happiness at joining in, whether it be a club, a sport or a class project. I see the pressure you put on yourself to be the best – to make a grade one point higher than the next guy, to be captain, president, or make the A honor roll. I see your desire to make the most of high school so you can be the most in college.
To all the students in the world – the teenage ones, the little ones and even the grown up ones, I see you. I see you for the person you are and the person you can become. I see you not as a skin color, a political party or a stereotype, but as a human being with your own needs, desires, worries and fears. I may not always have the answer to your question or the right words to make you feel better, but I see you as an individual who needs to be treated as such. So, do what you love and be who you are; I promise I’ll see you.