When you are in school to become a teacher, you are required to spend an internship in classroom for a school year. Usually the first semester you are in one classroom and then you switch to another the last semester. Meanwhile, you also take some actual college classes on the side. My first semester I was in a fifth grade classroom in Vero Beach, Florida and it was something that would change my life forever.
Before I started in that classroom in August of 2013, I had one heck of a summer (and not in a good way). The guy I thought I was going to marry had dumped me, I had just finished an awful summer camp job where I went in and left crying every single day, and my dad started not going to work anymore and gave no reason why. Emotionally, I was wreck and alone. I took the picture above on my day of my deepest depression, trying to make myself believe that I was actually okay.
Then the semester started, and things got even crazier. I was driving to Vero Beach three times a week (a 45 minute drive from my home) and then Cocoa Beach for those actual college classes twice a week (an hour and a half drive). I was exhausted, and emotional, and so lost. I cried in the car every day, and screamed myself to sleep in my muffled pillow every night. Ever been there? The loneliness and pain is too real to describe. I was depressed, and quite frankly, I just wanted things to end. I did scary things to myself during that time that should have left me for dead, but somehow I am still alive today and I do not know how.
I woke up one Monday morning with red eyes and messy hair and fumbled around to get ready for another day in the fifth grade classroom. The students were awesome, but they had TOUGH lives. Many were homeless, hungry, and hurting, but they came to school every day just like me. They acted out sometimes, and yelled from frustration. Some carried around big Harry Potter books from the library everywhere with them to make an illusion that they were great readers even though most could not even read a first grade level book.
Jacob (name changed for privacy reasons) was one of these kids. He had been held back before and could not read well. The kids would call him “Little Jacob” as a joke almost because he was not little by any means, he was actually much larger than myself. He thought it was funny and took the name with pride. He was pretty funny and liked to be the class clown. On that same Monday, he said something to me that would change me forever.
I was passing out papers morning and he whispered to me, “Hey Miss S, are you okay?” I was shocked and asked him why he was asking me if I was okay. He then replied “You just look different lately, ya know? You look defeated.” I was even more in shock that he said such a big word and that he was actually recognizing that something was going on with me. Without me even saying another word he said, “I am sorry for whoever did that to you. I hope you feel better.”
It was the biggest reality check I have ever had. After this, I went to the bathroom and pulled myself together. I vowed to choose happiness at school when I was with them, even when it hurt to do this, because they deserved my best. Did I get over my depression after this encounter? No. I still felt pretty awful, and I did for quite a few months after this. But did I feel better knowing that someone (even a 12 year old) recognized it and let me know that they cared.
I tell this story because it is SO important for us to show our love to others. Later on, some people who were close to me admitted that they knew I was not doing well, but that they were afraid to ask if I was really okay. How I wish they had! How I wish there had been more brave “Little Jacobs” out there who had let me know that they cared for me even when I was not myself. I feel no anger toward any of these people either, because I know how hard it is to feel like you are getting in someone’s personal space. It is hard, but it is so necessary.
Please, please, please speak up if you believe that something is wrong with the people you love. Even if they are not ready to talk about it, that person is going to know in their heart that there is someone who cares and sometimes that is all we need. Be a friend, be a shoulder to lean on, be a Little Jacob. ❤