It's no secret around here that my husband and I have struggled to build the family we dreamed of having. I've written about the times when teaching hurts, and I've defended my teaching skills to people who question my abilities because I wasn't a parent. This struggle led us to hear a call to become foster parents. What I didn't realize at that time was how much that would impact me as a teacher.
My husband and I made the very difficult decision to stop fertility treatments in October 2014 after three grueling years of heartbreak and disappointment. On the day we decided we had had enough, we called to register ourselves for classes to become foster parents. We began those classes in January 2015 and became licensed in May 2015. On June 10, 2015, we received a phone call to take in a 6 day old baby boy. 15 hours later, we were at the hospital holding that little boy in our arms. Little did we know that nine months later that little boy would officially be our son. We have opened our home to four child (ranging in age from 6 days old to 16 years old), including our son, in the last year. I now view the world through the perspective of foster care, and I am changed.
As a teacher, children are the center of my world. Throughout my formal training in education and my many years working in the education/child care field, I had heard many, many stories about less-than-ideal home lives. I knew there were parents "out there" that struggled to provide safe homes for their children. Hearing those stories and actually living as a component of those stories are two completely different things. I thought I knew what it meant to be someone's champion. I had absolutely no idea until now.
Being someone's champion means loving them even when they do everything they can to sabotage it.
It's holding their hand when they are scared, confused, and sobbing because their world makes absolutely no sense all the while knowing there is little you can actually do to help it make sense for them. You wipe your tears and hold that hand anyway, and you tell them you will figure it out together.
Being someone's champion is promising to love them unconditionally for the rest of their lives.
It's shouldering the unknowns. Trauma does all kinds of damage to people no matter how small those people might be. When you are someone's champion, you recognize the possibility of that damage and say, "We'll deal with that when we need to. Until then, and when that time comes, we'll love you with all we have."
Being someone's champion is going out of your way to create experiences they might never get without you.
It's hard, uncomfortable work. You do it anyway, because it matters.
Being someone's champion means knowing them - really, truly knowing them - and anticipating what they might need next.
It's letting go even when that's the hardest thing in the world to do. Sometimes you can't be their only champion. Sometimes they need more than one.
My heart has been ripped out, stomped on, and ground up in the last year. At the same time, it has been fuller and happier than I ever dreamed it could be. I am a different person. I am a different teacher. When I look at my students, I see my son. My son who was given a terrible hand and lost everything. He needed a champion, and I was so happy and ready to be just that for him. I'm happy and ready to do the same for my students.