Age of Awareness
Published in

Age of Awareness

Confessions of a Substitute Vol.2

Empathy and Understanding. Lessons I learned from an 8th grader.

“Close the door behind you.” The principal orders. Suddenly I get flashbacks to Middle School. Am I in trouble? A familiar fear pierces through my veins. Is she going to call my mom? No, she can’t. I’m a teacher. Well, half a teacher. But can She?

“Matthew, was your mom deported?” Asks Ms.Tomkins.

“If this is true, we are with you, and need to know if there is anything we can do for you.” Says Ms.Tomkins. I’m caught off guard. I had no idea. Matthew breaks down crying.

“Its true. It happened two weeks ago. They came in one night. And that was it. They took her. Now, I only get to see her once a week. Every Saturday me and my father drive down to Tijuana to see my mom.” He tells us.

Time to pivot. Yes, all us teachers want to keep swarming him like sharks chasing a bucket of chum, however the world has changed. I missed this. And it pissed me off. Now, I knew we had to correct course.

“Mr.Marks, My mom and I talked about it. And she told me I need to have my homework completed when the assignment is due. This is why she risked her life for me to be born here. This is why I am here and she is there. The way I do my mom well is by completing all my work and getting the best grades possible.” He says.

This moment rocked me to my core. I learned something. Yes, this is why she risked her life to immigrate to the United States. I see that I was trying to help out Matthew… But maybe I was hurting him.

I understood that I need to hold Matthew to the same standard as everyone else. We can work together, but getting him the proper education is vital. I understood where his mom is coming from. By holding him to the same standards it wouldn’t allow him to use his “home life” as a crutch. But instead Motivation.

Matthew and his family brought a new light, into my life. They showed me resilience. They showed me how to fight. By being empathetic to their circumstances, I felt the hardships Matthew was going through. Which enabled us to create a working environment that does his mom proud, and allows him to prosper.

Also, all the names in this story have been changed to protect their identity.

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