I was typing furiously at my desk in Teenage Wasteland this week when someone I didn't recognize stopped in the doorway. She asked if I had a moment to talk to a student, and when I asked what about, she said she had a student who had been disrespectful to a teacher. The student had said there was an issue she was having that she didn't feel comfortable talking about, and the stranger at the doorway said she couldn't find anyone else when I suggested the principal or psychologist. I told the stranger I'd try, and in came a very shy looking 6th grader.
Nearly an hour later, I escorted the girl out of my office. She didn't want to talk to me at first either, she said she didn't feel comfortable, and I said I wasn't going to pry. I kept her talking though, about safe topics, and at some point when she clammed up as we got close to her issue, I told her she could either keep talking or go back to class. She kept talking: her dad passed away a few years ago, her mom has re-married, there's a new younger brother in the class, she feels like no one cares about her, etc. In other words, more than I'm equipped to deal with. I asked her to talk to the school psychologist, and she finally relented, hesitant to have to share her story with another stranger. I have to toot my own horn with this girl: we had a good chat, one that surprised even her. She said when she came in she had already decided she wasn't going to tell me the problem, and on her way out she said it was "cool" the way I had just a normal conversation with her about it. I am pretty sure being cool in the eyes of a 6th grader is a compliment.
Later in the same day, the principal asked me to follow-up with a girl with reported thoughts of suicide that she had talked to the day prior. When I called her into my office, I found another tiny 6th grader looking at me, expecting me to have the answers for her. Her story was different: she feels fat, she said. (From a clinical standpoint: she's totally wrong, she looks like a normal, healthy girl.) We spent some time together, and I didn't think it was productive until as she was walking out of my office, she looked back and asked, "You're here Wednesdays you said?"
A co-worker said on Monday I have a bleeding heart, and maybe I do. But I think even if I were an ice queen, yesterday would have still worn me down a bit.