There’s really nothing sadder than an empty school. The halls, usually bustling with laughter and noise, are empty and silent like a tomb, so quiet that one can hear the wind blowing outside. It is the literal house with all of the children gone.
When you are there by yourself, it’s actually kind of unnerving… like a haunted house.
My classroom sits empty. I’ve taken all of my plants home so they won’t die while I’m away. The posters I’ve spent so many hours drawing and laminating sit silently like sentinels on darkened walls. The Super Mario desk calendar is two weeks behind by this point.
The desks stand like gravestones. I look at them and remember the smiling faces that sat there.
I think of those precious students who always asked questions, who always did their work to the best of their abilities, and who always had the most smiling and respectful of dispositions. I know they’re fine at home… I know they are cared for and loved.
I think of those… not-so-precious students. The loud ones, the ones who crave attention at every turn. The defiant students who are quick to anger and blame and yet, who are the first ones to seek me out when something is wrong. They are the first ones in the door and the last ones to leave. If I half-heartedly ask them about something that they care about, I find myself listening for what seems like hours to details about Fortnite and whatever Tik Tok is supposed to be.
These are the ones I’m worried about. I hear them talk about how they are alone, or they’re left with siblings who are mean to them. I hear about how they don’t like their parent’s new boy or girlfriend, I hear about all of the pent up frustrations that they feel and are too scared to voice at home. I hear about so much… so much that I wish I could remain naive about but, at the same time, I want them to feel safe enough to talk to me… to talk to anyone.
I’ll alert the office if I feel concerned about them. Thankfully, I haven’t had the need to report suspicions of abuse this year, but I still worry. I worry about the kids who aren’t here… in what could be the only safe place they know.
The only place they know where they are unconditionally loved and supported. The only place where they know where they are believe in and never given up on. The only place they know where they are given boundaries on behaviors and where they are encouraged to have dreams without limits. The only place they know where they can count on a steady breakfast and a steady lunch. The only place they know where they are safe.
That place has been taken away from them and, even though they may not realize it yet between sleeping late, Fortnite marathons, and endless television, the result has got to be emotionally devastating to them.
Truely, there is no sadder place than an empty school.