I mentioned last year around this time that I have given a narrative reading of Charles Dickens', "A Christmas Carol" many times. One of the most striking things to me about the story is the development and gradual decline in the character of Scrooge. As the Ghost of Christmas Past demonstrates to us, he was once a bright-eyed and kind-hearted child. The spirit takes us back to look at the hardships and struggles of his early life that eventually mold his character into the "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner" of later days. As an educator, I see many similarities between the conditions that Scrooge had as a child and conditions that many of our own struggling students may face today.
"There was an earthy smell in the air, a chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow with too much getting up by candlelight and not enough to eat." As we know, many of our students come to us hungry and perhaps the food they get at our breakfast and lunch program is the most substantial meal they have for the day. It always makes me smile when I see a hungry child come to the office and see our our own Mrs. Hill take out a healthy snack from her "emergency drawer". Students who are worrying about their next meal have a hard time concentrating on the lesson of the day.
"'The school is not quite deserted', said the ghost, 'A solitary child, neglected by his friends is there still'. Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed." How many of our students face abandonment issues or have separation anxiety, because they don't know what they may return to when they get home each night? It makes me happy to see our staff and volunteers strive to make school a safe zone for students, where things are consistent, stable, and cheerful. We can't control their home environment, but we can guarantee them a safe, happy, and productive day at school five days a week!
It's hard to have sympathy for Scrooge when we first meet him. He's selfish, greedy, and "warning all human sympathy to keep it's distance". However, when we see him through the eyes of the Ghost of Christmas Past, we see him as he once was and with the potential to be a generous and decent human being. Do we see our students for who they are at the moment, or do we see them as what they can become? That can be challenging for some of our students with behavior issues, but we need to look at the child apart from the behaviors and always strive to help them progress into who they can become and what they can achieve.
I often think that if Scrooge had someone who had intervened early in his life for the better, then perhaps he would not have needed a visit from Marley and the Christmas Ghosts. Luckily for our students, WE can be that positive intervention in their lives right now! We can make sure they are fed, that they are not forgotten, and can see them for who they can become. So this holiday season, let's remember our special role as educators and make a difference now, so the Ghost of Christmas Past will always hold joyous memories of learning for our students in the days to come!
photo credits: Walt Disney Studios 2009: A Christmas Carol
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!