I've shared here before that I am a high school counselor. For me, a priceless a job. I get to hang out with my favorite types of people - teenagers - and they cease to amaze me on a daily basis.
It can be emotionally exhausting work at times though. Sometimes the depth of sadness, despair and turmoil in some of their lives leaves me beyond sad. There is so much that most kids deal with on a daily basis outside of school it drives me insane when politicians and people like the Michelle Rhee's of the world go on and on about public school reform. But that political stuff is not what this post is about.
Today I was fortunate to be a part of a program my school organized for students to raise awareness about bullying, bring students together, tear down misconceptions, stereotypes and bring unity. Phil Boyte was the speaker and he is incredible.
I've done activities with students before, like Every 15 minutes and Unity Days, and it always amazes me how teenagers are so willing to open up when they are feeling respected and listened to. Today was no different.
There is an activity that is done in the afternoon, after the kids have gotten to know each other and feel a little more comfortable. It is called "cross the line". Basically everyone stands in a line and Phil will says things like "cross the line if you or somebody you know has been homeless". And it gets pretty deep. Violence, death, suicide.....
Afterwards Phil brings all of the participants back into the bleachers to talk as a group. He asked follow up questions to things we covered in small groups. Things like how would you change your school? He also allowed people to apologize to somebody in the crowd that they may have done something to in the past. It was so powerful to see these kids being vulnerable and admitting mistakes and taking responsibility for those mistakes.
Phil then went on to point out how each student is dealing with things in their lives that sometimes nobody else has a clue about. And how powerful it is to see that other's may be going through similar things. He then pointed out that there were six staff participating in the day.
What he said next caught me totally off guard.
Phil said that it was powerful to have staff share things about themselves too. And that one of the staff participating has a blog she writes about a personal and life altering situation in her life. And that a student had told him before the day started that she reads this blog. The staff who writes the blog doesn't know that the student reads it. But she does and it touches her and inspires her - and he said some other really cool things about what this student said about reading that blog.
I was sitting in the middle of all these students in the bleachers. Tears started rolling down my face. Could it be my blog? And how the heck do any students know about it?
So later I was sitting with Phil and my school's activities director and I said "whose blog is that?" Phil laughed and said "Yours - and you have made quite an impact on the student reading it." I told him I figured it was my blog because really? How many of the six staff sitting there blog about a personal, life altering situation in their life? But I told him I wanted to make sure because I was absolutely going to write about this on my blog!
One of the greatest pleasures in my job is knowing that I made a difference in a student's life. I know it sounds cliche, but it is so true. It makes all the other junk I deal with on a daily basis worth it.
Hearing that there is a student out there who reads my blog and is affected by Jillian's story and the aftermath humbles me. I'm still wondering how they found it. The fact that they continue to read it humbles me even more. And the reality that Jillian's story affects somebody, especially a student - I'm speechless.
Because it affirms to me that Jillian's circumstances in life have meaning. Her story and journey have purpose.
And the fact that I am able to write about Jillian as my inspiration and that has somehow inspired, touched or humbled another person is awesome.
Just as I hope that in my professional life I am making a difference, I too hope that is true in my personal life, through this life experience.
Teenagers are awesome.