All She Could See Was Her Mama’s Eyes

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose13 Comments


No one knows my struggle, they only see the trouble
Not knowin it’s hard to carry on when no one loves you
Picture me inside the misery of poverty
No man alive has ever witnessed struggles I survived
Prayin’ hard for better days, promise to hold on …

Now that part of “Thug Mansion” by 2Pac feat. Nas and J. Phoenix is the only tune that replays every time I see her. At first, I thought she was as dopey as some of the other students in her class. She rarely participated, and her attention lied elsewhere, and I was a bit frustrated with her progress or lack thereof in my class. She didn’t have any points of entry where she and I could have a good conversation about something other than math, as I seem to have had with my other students. Yet, in my eternal optimism, I decided to move her to the front.

Since then, she’s been doing very well for me, even more recently opening up and scratching on the 90 she’ll soon earn when she steps it up on her participation. Her writing is more meaty, and her math skills have shined brighter. This might even be the case in her other classes. She’s grown a little taller, too, almost eclipsing my own height, and for a girl her age, that might make others around her nervous …

… and it does …

She’s constantly picked on. People start problems with her for no reason. People diss her for her height, making rumors up about her body odor (of which I’m not aware) or her lack of girly qualities, whatever that means. At first, I tried to monitor how she handled it. Her demeanor doesn’t give anything away, so there was no sense in prying since there were no inherent “symptoms” of any social problems. Then, her other teacher read an excerpt of a poem she wrote, and my heart dropped.

For the first time since I was in 5th grade, I was privy to someone who seriously considered committing suicide. While suicide attempts have even become eerily viral, many of these pronounced wishes never come to fruition. With this girl, though, I knew she was serious. And I knew because I know of someone who wanted to commit suicide, too, back in that grade. The signs were there: honest and brutal poetry, anti-socialism, concentration on school to detach oneself from their problems, and problems concerning their parents.

If the teacher doesn’t do the right thing and refer the student but also speak to the child directly about their observations, then the student becomes a victim of his or her own suicidal thoughts. In many underrepresented communities, suicide is thoroughly looked down upon as a selfish and cowardly act. Nevermind that suicide is really a call for help, and the last resort in a list of options the person had in their cry for love. So I fear for the girl, knowing that the parents might blame the suicide on her and not on the circumstances that led to her feeling like there was no way out.

In this day and age, when people quip about committing suicide sarcastically or really just as a teenage hyperbolic social indicator, it takes an awful lot of understanding and listening to know who will commit suicide. And I fear for her, since when I look into her downtrodden and detached eyes, I …

… I see me …

jose, mr. v, and all the other entities I’ve assumed over the last few decades …

Comments 13

  1. well i will be damned. I don’t really know of any one who has seriously contemplated suicide. well at least i thought i didn’t. I thought about what it would be like if i was not on this earth any more and i realized at that moment i saw all the faces of the people who have sacrificed for me and all the faces i knew i needed to sacrifice in return.

    I can only hope that someone will reach that child. well let me be specific I hope that you are able to reach that child. this is when being a teacher becomes more than a job or a profession. I pray your footsteps are of proper coordination for this is a very sensitive matter.

    piece and blessings.

  2. This is very sad. Hope you can reach out to her teacher in time.

    I used to have this kindergarten student who thought about killing herself after being bounced around from foster home to foster home. I think people undermine the power of these thoughts because they feel like it’s all talk or like you’ve said, a selfish way of getting attention. But in my eyes, it is most certainly a cry for help. For someone to have the thought of ending his/her life.. to come to that point when his/her life has just began, it must be taken seriously.

  3. Jose,

    Kudos to you for presenting us with another outstanding post. Your words here touched me on a few different levels:

    Firstly, your writing is extremely fluid and lyrical and conveys beautifully the situation being described.

    Secondly, I feel respect and sympathy for being in a position where you can identify a potentially destructive spiral for someone who has barely had a chance to start their life. What to do… what to say in a situation like this?

    Lastly, it provoked memories of a time when for me, I was immersed in some internal darkness of my own and struggled to see a way out. I can empathise with “her” more than I wish I did… Not saying I ever really contemplated suicide, but I longed for an escape. It was the gentle kindnesses of a precious few who kept me moving towards the light. And for that, I am deeply, eternally grateful.

  4. Wow – this was powerful – you see you? I find that the times when I am most effective with kids is when I can relate to them in a way that others can not or do not – what about that approach?

  5. Post

    Well, there’s a lot of ppl who hide it so well because they adjusted to life and/or learned to cope after a while.

    Ann, I’ll definitely be doing what I can with the child, but yes, the teacher is doing all she can, I’m sure.

    Shelly, thanks. I do my best. I think suicide is really an interesting way to approach escapism, especially when there aren’t other options. Many of us don’t have the resources to run away, so that’s what ends up happening.

    Alisha, yeah, I saw me, hence the 5th grade reference. If I understand the question clearly, then in response, I say I’m doing my best now that I recognize the problem fully to rectify the situation, and have more conversations with her. That’s important.

  6. My heart goes out to her. I pray she is reached quickly, and that her problems worked out and her heart healed.

    I think we have all been there. At least I have.


  7. Last year a tenth grader calmly handed me a suicide note as I handed out a test. I immediately went to call for help. After 10 minutes, I called again and was screaming into the phone. Only then, did the counselor and AP come running. Since then, I have been trying to keep an eye on her, letting her know that I am there for her whenever she needs me. Sometimes, I just give her a hug (oh no, that might cost me my job) when we pass in the hall. Today was not a good day for her. I know she was going to talk to the SPARK counselor. Without invading her privacy, I will check on her tomorrow.

    Many years ago, a kid threatened to put a gun in his mouth and blow out his brains. It also took me quite a while to find someone to help.

    My school is too big. There are too many kids. Kids who need help are not getting it. I feel so helpless sometimes. Being there is good, but it is not enough.

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