Today I walked into the classroom and I saw your boy on the floor. He was weeping - I could hear him from my office - and with barely a glance in your direction, I wandered over to your son on the ground. He was sprawled across the floor, his hands nestled in the crooks of his arms, and his body was shaking with every cry. My hand rubbed his back, and I quietly asked him what was wrong. He didn't answer me; he just cried harder, and I insisted he tell me what had happened. But he was too focussed on his cries to respond.
I learned from the other students that you had beaten him. I don't know what he did wrong, and I don't know if he was rude to you or he hurt another student or if he interrupted you as you were speaking. All I know is that you had deemed his actions worthy of physical pain. And as I watched his tears, and his body shake, all I wanted to do was gather him in my arms so that as my heart broke I could hold his shaking body close. But instead I walked away, as my heart beat desperately in my chest and as I felt your eyes follow me across the room.
I wish I could feel what you feel when you take your hand and you force it across his body. (But then again, maybe I don't). I guess what I mean is I just really wish I could understand.
Because I see this boy, this son of yours, as beautiful. Every part of him as valuable, even his tears. And I just really find it hard to see how, even in the name of discipline, this beating of him teaches him value. How it teaches him that you love him. How it teaches him an understanding of why his behaviour was wrong.
Because doesn't it just teach him to fear your hand?
I don't claim to know much, and I don't claim to know what it's like to be a mom. You have faced more than your fair share of challenges in your life and I admire the way you still carry a smile on your face and your head held high. I don't want to quote you all the textbooks and research and papers I've read on the topic, because in the end none of that really matters if I'm not willing to share my heart.
But can I just ask you one question? That's all, and I'll end the letter there. Can you look into his eyes? For a moment just look into his eyes, and see him as the Child of God that he is. Can you see him as he was knit together, the Creator's fingers taking careful measures to instil that he was perfectly created? And then in those moments, the moments where he makes you so angry you raise your hand or your fist or a cane - can you just remember that image?
Because my heart's just breaking here, tonight, for him, for you, for me. Because I walked away and felt so helpless, yet there was something inside of me that was insistent I do something, anything. Even just penning this letter.
So with love and a breaking heart,
Your Son's Teacher