I teach English Language Arts at a public high school in Worcester, Massachusetts, where approximately 70 percent of our students receive reduced or free lunch because of their financial situations. A number of my students don’t live with their parents. They live with relatives, or in foster homes and shelters after experiencing homelessness. As I write this essay, right before Thanksgiving, I’m already seeing the stress, fear, anger, and anxiety that can be triggered by the holidays. My brave students remind me that this time of year isn’t happy for everyone.
As a teacher, my job isn’t limited to giving students an education. It’s my responsibility to give them time, attention, support, and direction. Whenever my school holds a coat, food, or gift drive, I participate in it. I also get permission to throw a little party in my classroom, the day before Christmas break, as this may be the *only* party my students attend. Above all, it’s important for me to give my students hope. I believe an education is a passport to a better future.
Giving back shouldn’t begin or end with the holidays. It should happen year-round. Little acts of kindness can mean the world to someone who is going through a tough – or even tragic – time. And giving back makes you feel good, too. Whenever I hear “thank you” or receive an unexpected letter down the road from a former student, it renews me with hope and energy to tackle another day.
Happy holidays to everyone!