Dearest Student, 

The other day, you expressed hurt over something I did. Not that you said you’re hurt. Your face was macho, of course, and you said the words in a manner that could be interpreted as jest, angst, or chutzpah. 

It wasn’t chutzpah; I knew that. You’re not a disrespectful student. Though your actions are often disrespectful — disturbing to the average teacher in the average mainstream classroom setting — you are not. It’s your hurt that speaks the language of disrespect. 

Crossing disrespect off my mental list I considered angst and jest. It was the latter I decided to respond to, because it was the safer choice. (Later, I berate myself for not addressing the angst it surely is...) 

I do not know if I was truly guilty as you charged me, but I was humble enough to apologize. I called you up after school to do so, but you’d already moved onto the hurt from the class after mine. You were hurting from the accumulation of a day’s pain. An accumulation of years’ worth of pain. What I said matters little. 

It hurt me to know this, and to know that I’ve played a role in hurting you, one of Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s beloved children. Believe me when I say that I do not, not, not want to do that. I truly do see the fun-loving, thoughtful, quirky girl you are — as well as the delicate soul which resides within you. 

However, I don’t know what to do with all that I know. I try this and I try that, not because I think I’ll get through to you where others have not, but because I want to make sure I’ll not cause more pain. Speaking to principals, asking advice, implementing their suggestions takes me no place. You are a closed book to us all. 

I do not know your struggles, as you don’t share them with me. (And, to be honest, I don’t wish for you to share them with me as I’m probably not equipped to handle them.) But I see that you struggle, and my heart aches to see that. And to know that I cannot help you. That there is no way for me to ease the hurt. 

You walked with me to my car, carrying the books I asked you to help me with. It was an angry, bitter, sullen walk that you walked. And I wondered whether I was part of the problem of your life or if your difficulties were so vast that I was but a blip on the screen. I wondered if I could possibly be part of the solution. If, by showing you that I care, I could dig away at the mounds of angst, at the anger that brews within and spills over to cloud your face. Your life. 

I smiled at you, and you scowled back. Was it because you weren’t in the greatest of moods, or because you didn’t like my smile? Or because you don’t like me as a person? I couldn’t know. I’m not a mind reader and you don’t tell me. 

I reminded you about an assignment due and offered to help you with it. You ignored my overtures and pretended not to hear. Was it because you wanted me to ask again, to beg, or because you were annoyed at my attempts to help? Did you think I’m “minding your business”? I couldn’t know. 

Bewildered and confused I threw up my hands. I stopped trying. And felt guilty for not trying enough. 

Now, at year’s end, there’s nothing left for me to do but apologize for the hurt I may have caused you this year. And hope that you understand and forgive. 

Wishing you the best of mazel and brachah in the future, 

Your Teacher Who Cares