In my brain, I had written a blog post just a few weeks ago! School began and the pace of everything got furiously fast and relentless, as teaching and administrating often are. And then came the earthquakes in Mexico and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Feeling stuck and irrelevant, I was too sad to write or post anything.
There is a collective sadness and heightened state of anxiety, and also a sense of community, among Puerto Ricans everywhere. We have family and friends no one has heard from in Puerto Rico. Some of my closest friends, my colleagues and my students have parents, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins they have not heard a word from since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
As teachers, we have to keep doing what we do. Our students count on us to be there for them, every day. In a way, it is a blessing because we stay occupied and have less brain space to obsessively think about the sadness and destruction. This week was a great reminder for me of this.
On Thursday, my energy was low and so were my spirits, as were those of many of my colleagues who grew up in PR and have immediate family members there. Still, I had to turn my attention to my class. This year I have the same group of 9 students in English and social studies. As always, there is a wide range of studentship skills, English levels, and maturity. I was feeling frustrated, in particular, with the low maturity levels of some of the students. Right in the middle of us playing Kahoot (which might explain why they were so happy), one student mentioned that she loved my class. It started a chain reaction of others saying, "Yeah, I look forward to coming here!", and "It's my favorite class!". One student shouted out "I love you Ms.Lopez!". Then she ran over to the front of the room where I was and hugged me. I told her she had made my day, and I told all of them I love them too. They really did make my day. Their words and smiles filled my heart and put things back into perspective for me.
That same night, one of my students sent me a heartfelt email in Spanish asking me if I could think of any fundraising we could do at school to help people on the island. She had still not heard any news from her grandmother, but she was holding it together well in school. The next day, I told the class about the email, and I told the student that I had already started planning a fundraiser and would definitely need her help. She smiled, and for the moment, looked somewhat relieved.
In these moments, as much as we need solace and relief ourselves, our students need it even more. Every small gesture counts. Don't be afraid to say something comforting to your Puerto Rican students this week.
Stay tunes for a new blog post every 2 weeks on Saturday or Sunday if I can! Thanks for following.