I am the very proud principal of the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center (HACTC). And I have a confession to make.
I love so many things about my job: greeting students off the bus; giving them birthday cards (and a chocolate bar); supporting them in the mistakes they make; seeing them learn; laughing with them; watching them Grow...Emotionally...Spiritually...Academically.
And soooooo very much more.
Yet despite those things I love, there are things about my job that I do not love.
In fact, there are things about my job that I hate.
I hate Christmas.
There. I said it. That is my confession.
I hate Christmas not because I am a Grinch. Although I will certainly admit to Grinch-like tendencies.
But rather because Christmas proves to be the most difficult time of the year for students.
Year in and year out. For the 26 years I have taught.
The second hardest time of year for students? Three months later. When the sap runs. And eviction notices can be served.
I do not hate sugaring time. Not yet. It’s getting there, though.
But back to Christmas.
Students simply struggle at Christmas. A lot. Emotionally...Spiritually...Academically.
All students? No.
Most students? Maybe.
Some students? Yes.
But even if only some students struggle, I struggle. Emotionally….Spiritually.
That is an unfortunate symptom of caring, I guess. My teammates can attest. They do it, too.
Caring and struggling.
And despite knowing that proportional relationship is unhealthy for us, we still do it. We cannot help it.
And why the struggle for students?
Not enough presents? No.
Not being in school for a week or so? Maybe.
Being reminded? Yes.
That their mother is not in their life.
That their father is not in their life.
That their father and mother are in their life but not in a good way. Not a parenting way.
That it is hard to love people and not their decisions or their behavior.
That they do not have enough food.
That they do not have enough love.
That they do not have enough stuff. To keep up with the Joneses.
That they do not have reliable housing. Or transportation.
That they feel guilty for having too much food. Or love. Or a nice house. Or a car.
That they have a good life. Especially when their friends do not. Friends they love.
That guilt is powerful. And not a good motivator. Or a sustainable one.
That compassion is powerful.
That compassion can be confusing.
That alcohol ruined their family. Or ruined a friend.
That heroin ruined their family. Or ruined a friend.
That despite the claim marijuana is not addictive, they know it to be habitual.
That bad habits are hurtful. And distancing. And hurtful. And distancing.
That despite professed love, actions speak louder than words.
That self esteem bruises just as easily from words as the body does from violence.
That violence sucks. In words or in contact.
That neglect is abuse.
That abuse is abuse. It is not a grey area. Despite the offender’s opinion.
That anger is an epidemic.
That sex is supposed to be based in love. But often it is not. It is just not.
That their parents work hard, manage their money well, and cannot make ends meet.
There are many more than those. That I do not know.
But the students do. They know them all.
Is the above cliche? Written to provoke an emotion? A response from the reader?
No. Maybe. Possibly.
That list is real. For some students. But for every principal. And team. That cares.
And I do not know any that do not care.
Downer of a confession, eh?
Probably. Well, maybe not. I hope not.
Because there is hope.
At the HACTC. And all schools.
Students are supported there. At school. By good people. By educators. Who care for them.
And love them.
And encourage them.
And believe in them.
And give them the better reminders: they are Strong. Smart. Unique. Courageous. Gritty. Resilient.
And do not have to follow the behavior and/or choices of others; they can create their own way.
Well, maybe I do not hate Christmas as much as I thought. Or even at all. Hope can do that, I suppose.
Change your thinking in only three pages - in 767 words.
The struggles students face at Christmas will be handled. And neutralized. And used for good. For Growth.
By the students. By my team. By me. By all educators.
Merry Christmas, then. Merry Christmas.