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An Empty Desk and a Broken Heart

Title – An Empty Desk and a Broken Heart
By – Sarah

As a first-year teacher at a Christian school, I was expecting my fifth grade students to be perfect. Perfect in behavior, in attitude, in spiritual growth, and I even expected the home-life of each student to be nearly perfect. I found, of course, that these students were no different than the children I student-taught in public school. These kids had behavior problems, bad attitudes, and some even had strikingly difficult family lives.

One of my students in particular stands out in my mind. I’ll call him Timothy for safety’s sake. During the first day of class, I noticed that Timothy was different. Not only in physical appearance (for he was extremely thin, wore old men’s clothes, his skin took on a pale, pasty tone), but he also spoke strangely, as though a 35 year old man were trapped inside his tiny, frail body. Timothy did not have any friends. During free time in the room, he always wandered around aimlessly with his head bent at an angle toward the hard floor. His eyes were very shifty and even when the other children tried to talk to Timothy, his response was often negative. On many occasions, I heard Timothy speak of hate, how he hated his family, especially his younger sister, and I actually saw Timothy try to physically hurt her several times on the playground. He seemed to have deep emotional problems. Despite all of the emotional havoc that Timothy seemed to endure, his grades were always high. Considering Timothy’s high grades and his emotional status, my concern for him grew. I began to think of the potential danger he posed if later in life he were to act out more violently than I had seen previously.

I observed Timothy for several months and read up on his background and searched his charts for any clue that would lead me closer to understanding this child’s odd behavior. Finally I began questioning the administration about Timothy and received some much-needed answers. I was directed to Timothy’s older brother’s file where I found a suicide note written by Timothy a year earlier. Apparently, his older brother was accused of cheating on a test and had taken his anger out on Timothy at home. Timothy’s parents, in turn, had contacted the school, blaming them for Timothy’s problems, and had threatened to sue. I stumbled on a spiral of events which, along with many observations I had made, led me to believe that the cause of Timothy’s problems lay at home. His chart said that Timothy was receiving counseling at home, but I was sure that he was not.

I remembered talking with Timothy’s father the week that school began. His father had said, “If you have any trouble with him, it’s probably because his big brother beats up on him a lot and he never gets his own way.” Timothy’s sister began coming to school with bruises and the teachers and administration became very suspicious. I had written a letter to the administration asking that Timothy see a counselor. The school was in the process of contacting a counselor and setting up observation periods when Timothy’s sister and brother were pulled out of school. Timothy’s parents had contacted the school with the story that “Patrick and Anna don’t like going there anymore. But Timothy can stay. At least for now.” Patrick and Anna were placed in another Christian school. From my understanding, this was one of many moves.

When I heard the news about Patrick and Anna, I knew we had to move quickly. Plans started coming together for Timothy’s counseling. Three days later Timothy, too, was pulled from school. His father would not even allow him to enter the classroom to say “good-bye.” His father hurried around my room collecting Timothy’s things and left. That is the last we have seen or heard from Timothy. I was left with an empty desk and a broken heart. I cried for days afterwards. I felt as though I had done Timothy a disservice… I did not help him when he needed me to. I still think about Timothy every day, and his classmates still remember to pray for him every morning during devotions.

I pray that you will not let a troubled life slip through your fingers. Do what you can, while you can.

E-Mail Sarah

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