[my heart aches.]

at work today, i asked my 9th graders if anyone had any plans for their christmas break. unsurprisingly, i got a lot of shrugs and mumbles (they don't get excited about much, these kids..) so i made a flippant comment that i soon began to regret. i said in so many words that they must at LEAST be looking forward to christmas and spending time out of school and home with their families. my heart began to ache as a discussion ensued among the kids and i realized that an overwhelming majority of them shared the same sentiment. they'd rather be in school.

when i was their age, i remember anxiously marking the days off the calendar, counting down each eternity of a day until christmas break. on the last day of school we would have a little holiday party and parents would send cookies or cupcakes with their kids and we'd exchange christmas cards. it was another place.. another time.

today i heard stories of kids with no parents, kids with alcoholic parents, kids who don't celebrate any holidays at all, kids who don't even have a place to go everyday after school. we have so many "couch surfers", a new term that i learned labels the kids who have been kicked out or run away from home and spend each night on the couch of a different friend or relative, and i wonder where they will spend christmas.

a couple of weeks ago an early-bird staff member arrived at school to find a student sleeping on the front steps. the kid apparently didn't have a place to go the night before or just didn't feel safe going home so he slept in the safest place he could think of.. school.

my heart hurts so badly for them. by no means did i have a perfect childhood.. but what i did have every single day of my life was a warm bed and parents waiting for me to come home at night. i'm more thankful for that than ever before... and i have my students to thank for teaching me such an invaluable lesson.

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