It was one Sunday I invited my friend to my mother’s church with me. We walked in, sat on the third row on the left-hand side, and worshipped. Everything was smooth. Great. My mother, Pastor Harris, took the pulpit and it was very obvious something was off. She looked at me, prompted me to stand, and said, “Y’all know my baby Tysheka. God has touched her in a way that is unbelievable. She has remained faithful to Him, relied on Him during tough times, and trusted Him to carry her through this journey. Many have no idea of our story.” My heart immediately drops.
Thinking to self: I do not share personal information with everyone for my own particular reasons. Toni knows this and she has me standing here. Alone. I’m the only child, Lord. OMG, it’s not that I want people to think I have it all. That’s not why I don’t speak of the past. I don’t want others to feel sorry for me and treat me differently because they know pieces of my past they probably could not imagine experiencing.
My mom continues, “There was a time when the concrete was our bed and our trash bag of clothes was our pillow.”
In my mind, I had passed out and took a little walk with Jesus towards the pearly gates. She said it. Needless to say, I received those side-eye glances and one awkward rub on the back and thought to myself, “How in the world did you make it here after…”
I walked into my classroom and he said, “Ms. Harris, I can’t do this. I’m hearing it again.” I moved towards him, kneeled down to look at his eyes, touched his shoulder and motioned him to follow me outside. As I took a deep breath, he said, “The voices keep talking to me and telling me to do things I know are not right. I can’t control them.” I immediately called his mother and shared the information she already knew was coming. After speaking with her and administration about the situation, it was determined he would be homeschooled for a few weeks.
I took my emotions to my bedroom that evening and questioned God about why He gave me a student who hears voices during my first year of teaching. I did not sleep well that night because my question for Him soon transitioned to why is a child experiencing this type of struggle. Over the next few weeks, I taught my students to the best of my ability with a 21-year-old mind that was overloaded with 5.
- My artist heard voices.
- My beautician was touched by her mother’s boyfriend.
- My singer had a father who showed Ms. Harris more attention than her.
- My actress was in love with my track star who was loving on another girl.
- My football player was emotionally disturbed and unable to express his feelings which resulted in him crying almost every day from frustration.
I saw a part of myself in 5.
- My artist was admitted to a psych ward.
- My beautician ended up getting suspended multiple times due to fighting guys who would even look her way.
- My singer was moved to another campus and felt as if her life was over.
- My actress is now 13 with a baby boy.
- My football player is still socially awkward and sits by himself at his high school football games.
Insight into my personal reflection:
Why do you think you seem to effortlessly attract kids like 5?
I deeply believe my childhood through teenage life experiences qualified me to strategically support these students. I believe I was chosen to meet five for two reasons: (1) I understand the importance of being quiet and listening. Troubled kids need an ear, a hug, a genuine connection with no strings attached, and consistency. (2) I, now, understand why the concrete was our bed and our trash bag of clothes was our pillow.
Did these different experiences affect your personal life? If so, how?
I lost sleep. I cried. I chose work over family. I became fully invested in ensuring I was doing everything possible, within my classroom, to ease the load for my students and create an atmosphere that allowed them to be innocent kids. No pretending. No hiding. Just freedom.
It also impacted my personal life by making me question individuals who tried to attach themselves to me or come within my inner circle. I wanted to know what load they were carrying, what childhood issues have they not responded to, how were the troubles resurfacing within their adulthood, and many other things.
What did you learn from these particular experiences in conjunction with your own?
I’m honestly still wrapping my head around five and the other twenty-five (will be shared in later blogs). But thinking of five wholistically, I found out becoming a great teacher for all is not learned in books, seminars, and professional development because teaching is not all about content. Impactful teaching is very complex as it embodies the need for one to connect and reconnect countless times with students from different walks of life, build relationships that are founded on trust and not meaningless incentives, push the students beyond their comfort zone to work through the pain, thoughts, voices, and heartaches all while tackling the overload of unrelated-to-content duties.
I learned the importance of seperating my work-life from my personal life (unless I want to stay single forever and only see my family during family reunions). This is much easier said than done once you accept the fact that you will always, even as an Instructional Coach, be blessed with students who experience unfortunate situations. I’ve taken small steps by first recognizing I can’t save anyone. I can only share my story in hopes it will ease their pain, give them unwavering support, and provide them with academic knowledge and strategies that can be applied to further their goals and dreams.