Humans; Heartbreak, Heartache, and Heart Felt Feelings

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or

Originally published, Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 13:24:53 PM

Currently, I am writing for an educational organization.  In penning my pain for what occurs in our schools today, it occurred to me the same impersonal approach, awareness, or lack thereof, is evident in offices, neighborhoods, and in our broader community. People pretend to or believe they ” know” their fellow workers, their family members, and their friends.  Yet, more often than not, I observe that this is not necessarily true.  I, we, she, or he only comprehends what is visible on the surface.

Few choose to ask of, address, or answer the deeper concerns that life delivers daily; I offer this narrative and request your reflections. We all have our own tale to tell. I invite you to share yours.  Please trust that I care; your secrets are safe with me.  I suspect that others will honor you as I choose to do.  I believe we all relate to sorrow.

Today the distress I wish to discuss is heartbreak, heartache, and heart felt feelings. In my own life, I am witnessing that many close to me are battling life-threatening illnesses. Their terminal diagnoses affect me deeply. They weigh heavy on those closer to the ” patient” than I. I cannot begin to imagine the pain long-suffering persons feel. Yet, through the quiet trials and tribulations of a teen, who supposedly studied under my tutelage, I learned. What we hide hurts us most.

I feel such sorrow for friends, family, or even the individual that is hurting, struggling to survive. Each time I hear of a person waiting to pass, I wonder.  What are they thinking, feeling; how will their own being be altered, and what of their loved ones.

As I listen to many in my life speak of loss, I am aware that even those that lose a loved one to divorce, physical separation, or a break-up are also feeling great pain.  There is so much that occurs daily in the lives of each of us.  Yet, we rarely discuss our deepest anguish.  Students are often satiated; their personal pressures can be overwhelming.  Anxiety has an effect on the work of pupils; yet, rarely do Educators address such concerns.  I wish to share a personal story, one that illustrates how loss can take a toll on our students.

I recall a time when I was teaching high school students.  A young girl, quite bright was struggling to connect in most of her classes. Many of Marsha’s Instructors pondered, ” What were they to do with her?”

Each Educator in Marsha’s life approached her; they wanted to help. Teachers truly believed that Marsha could achieve if she just put her mind to it.  She was ” not working to her potential.”  Her mentors felt certain if they affirmed their belief in her that would be enough. All else would change. Thus, Instructor after Instructor spoke of this with the young scholar.  They discussed her grades, her attention to detail, and her chatty nature.  When I arrived at the school, I observed that in respect to Marsha, Teachers focused on what they could see; what they had observed for the last two years.

What they could not envision and did not experience was what occurred in the two years prior. Marsha witnessed a suicide.  Her father killed himself in front of her. She shared that after the incident, she and her mother were told by law officers that they had to clean the mess, the splattered blood, brains, and guts that covered the walls of her once tranquil home. Wow. How traumatic!

This young woman shared the tale calmly; it was ” just” part of a conversation. She showed no emotion as she described the details.  After all, she had two years to become numb.

Had I not ” been there” sitting with students and discussing daily distresses as they do while they work I would not have learned of this alarming event. In my own teaching, I do not place myself at a distant ” Teacher’s” desk in the front or the back of the room.  I casually chat with students while they work.  I purposely did not and do not present an imposing influence, in part because that is not my nature.

As a tablemate, I learned what many Teachers had not.  Thus, I ask; are we as Instructors attending to success.  Are achievements all we strive for or is it the appearance of these?  Does the want for verifiable standards neglect a students needs?  Does instruction in its current form fill a young mind or are only forms bubbles, and blanks filled in.?   How often might we miss knowing our students?  Granted, there are truths that Teachers accept.

I too acknowledge that with overcrowded classes and curriculums that must be completed, time and true care for the whole of our students can be left behind.  Much escapes our attention when people, pupils are not the mandated priority.  In effect, even if we say students are our main concern, if Educators, parents, Principals, and the broader population act on another agenda, genuine empathy and education do not survive.

Perchance, this truth extends far beyond a classroom.  Indeed, I observe and experience that it does.  As humans we wish to connect; yet, barely and rarely do we really act on our deepest desire..

In cyberspace we chat.  On street corners we converse, albeit often superficially.  At a party, even with our pals, we discuss with tact.  Much is pretense.  More is merely as we are taught or told is polite.  I wonder what might we do to create what we crave, an authentic association.

Please share your thoughts, experiences, and observations.  I, we as Educators, as parents, as persons in a society that stresses ” accountability” in our schools can learn from you!

For those of you that are reading this saga and are not mentors in the conventional sense, please trust that you too are a Teacher.  We all are. Simultaneously, we tutor and we learn.  We are all students and guides; we each facilitate expansion.  I invite you to advance my own.  I thank you for offering opportunities for our greater growth.