Only seven more weeks

Recently I read an article on Facebook called “Only Seven More Weeks.” It highlighted different perspectives of teachers as they consider the last seven weeks of school.

One teacher reflected on the short amount of time left with so much more she wants to teach the students. Another teacher was reflecting on the last seven weeks before her 25-year education career ends and a life of retirement begins. She reflected on all she has seen over the years, the students who have passed through her classroom, the changes over the years, including good and not so good. Yet, for another teacher, the last seven weeks couldn’t come soon enough. She was done with the year despite having seven more weeks left and ready for “me” time.

And while all these perspectives are likely the thoughts of many teachers, it was the perspective of the child that really spoke to me. The child wasn’t ready for school to end. He actually wished school was year round, including Saturdays and Sundays.

This child knew that he would no longer get two good meals each day and he wouldn’t have the safety net he has while at school. There would be no smiling faces to brighten his day or a sweet voice reading to him. In fact, being out of school was a time he dreaded and likely feared.

As a former social worker, I also remember hating when children were out of school. Even though it was my job and more inconvenient than being able to interview them at school, I had to track down children at their homes, a relative’s or friend’s house, daycare, while they were on vacation. Not only was it challenging to locate children, it was often difficult to talk with children one-on-one. And even if that opportunity came about, children were reluctant to talk when an alleged perpetrator was sitting just one room over.

Trying to get children to be completely honest about any abuse/neglect they may be encountering was almost impossible. Even though it was my job, it made a social worker’s job so difficult at times.

Long story short, some children do not feel safe during non-school hours. Survival mode is at the forefront. They do what they have to do, including lying or minimizing the situation they are in or seeking a safe zone at church or a friend’s home.

Looking back, I now feel ashamed to think of my desires of having them easily accessible and how “inconvenient” it was to track them down at a place where they just exist and try not to be seen or heard. A place where they don’t feel safe and “laying low” is one of their survival instincts. I can only imagine how “inconvenient” it is to them to be the subject of abuse/ neglect.

At least when abused children are at school, they have a time when they can just be children. Yes, they may be the student who sleeps in class, the student who acts out, or the child who isolates himself, but the few short hours at school allow him a time of not living in fear, not being hit, not being sexually abused, or not being told how worthless he is.

Imagine how stressful it becomes for an abused child as the school day comes to an end and the bus stops in front of their house knowing they are subject to be a victim yet again. It has to be a feeling that only someone in that situation can describe.

So as the school year is winding down, know that not every child is glad to be off for the summer. For some, summer will be “hell on Earth,” and they can’t wait until the school bell rings once again.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, don’t ignore your suspicions; REPORT IT! Call your local DHR. Give them any and all information possible. You can remain anonymous if you so desire. Make the call to Blount County DHR at 205- 274-5200. That call could potentially prevent further abuse or even save a child’s life.

-Cheryl Helton