What does shelter mean?

Slice of LIfe

March 27, 2012


Noun:  A place giving temporary protection from… danger.

Verb:  Protect or shield from something harmful, esp. bad weather.

Synonyms:  refuge- haven- harbor- retreat

The drive home today was centered on one word – shelter.   What does it mean and is that what my classroom should be?  Did I think it was a shelter of sorts – a safe haven for all who enter these doors?   It is what I want it to be.  It is what I image it to be but as always reality rears it’s head every so often to humble us when we thinking we are doing to well.

It was a day of humbling thoughts and realities.

DA began the day in tears as I walked down the hall to open the classroom door.   She tries hard but school is not easy and she finds herself the center of much teasing.  Today was just more that she could take first thing (not a safe harbor for her today).  We talked about it and met with others who are making life hard for her and when went on about the day.

AW was more than I could take today.  She was eating candy, passing out gum after letting me know she did not have either, no work was done and she kept hiding under the computer desks by the Anoles.  We talked several time and I tried to have her help me make a plan for things to go better – after I took away hair product, candy, gun and toys. She had no ideas on how to help and acted for all the world as if it did not matter.  I just redirected and sent her to work. Not sure what to do and not happy.   After school I read her Slice of Life – she and family had spent the night in a shelter and she had no idea where they were going tonight and she had spent before school helping her Mom who was in tears.   (Not a safe haven for her – and I certainly didn’t help the situation. No wonder she was under the computer desk)

AY  was agitated all day.  He kept talking to himself, would not follow directions and seemed to not be able to focus on all day.  I talked to him, I ignored some of the behavior when I could.  I asked how things were going since I knew he was now living in a hotel for a short while ( an apartment fire).   I was trying to be helpful and was excited to see a note with a new bus stop for him.  They would be moving into a new place but this note took him over the edge.   I did not understand.  He was upset wanted to call Mom, would not sit down and really had trouble focusing in math, his favorite subject.  He was nuts and clearly I was not providing a safe shelter for him.   Well, the after school read of the Slice of Life again helped me to understand his fears and the need to call Mom all day long.  He was seeking “shelter” or safe harbor.   They leave the hotel each morning by getting into taxi and it begins to drop off each person – first mom, then older sister and then older brother and then the next one down.  AY is the youngest and he remains in the taxi a lone as he move towards our school. ( He is nine.)   He is never sure if he is taking a school bus some place or if a taxi is picking him up at the end of day and who will be in the taxi. He does not know what shelter he will be in each night and yet I expect him to focus and learn each day.  (not a safe harbor for him today either)  I just added to the anxiety by giving him the bus pass without more information from Mom.   It became one more place he did not know about and was not sure who would be there if he rode the bus.

Today was a day for re thinking what is shelter in a classroom.  When do we stop and provide safe harbor and when do we push ahead and keep teaching?  I learned so much as I read their writing after school and they went out into the world – I learned that some are not sure where their shelter is or what shelter is?

The question I now think about is how do I help?   How do I help them not get lost in the mess of the adult lives around them?  How do I protect and yet guide them to be fighters, to push through and come out a head?

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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3 Responses to What does shelter mean?

  1. Wendi says:

    Your noticing that these young lives are in turmoil and that you can provide a safe haven for them in your classroom is already an answer. It’s unbelievable what our kids are subjected to. Your kids are blessed that you take the time to find out.

  2. Oh my goodness. Such stories. Such precious lives. Such compassion from you. Yes, you provided shelter and will do so again tomorrow. Thank goodness for you.

  3. Kat says:

    Oh my, what a tough time for some of your students. I think that they feel comfortable sharing their life with you means that you give them shelter, no matter how temporary. Good luck to you and them.

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