Ready to Learn?

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Listening to some music on my computer this morning, I came across a song from Pink titled, “Family Portrait” – a song written from a child’s perspective about a family being torn apart by divorce. As I often do with songs that have meaningful lyrics, I searched for the video on YouTube. I was amazed to discover that the video has 15,000,000+ views and 11,000+ comments. As I read the touching comments left behind by many children, some of which are shared below, I thought of the many students we work with at school who just aren’t ready to learn because of all the sadness, fear, and uncertainty swirling in their minds. I also thought back to a talk I attended a few years back given by Dr. Gabor Maté. The most important thing he said of children that night was that as teachers and parents, we need to “Collect them before [we] direct them.” By collecting, Gabor Maté was talking about taking the time to make meaningful connections with our students and children, before ‘getting on with business’. How can we get on with learning in classrooms when children are dealing with real-life trauma such as parents divorcing, hunger, neglect, or abuse?

Yes, our work in schools is about promoting wonder, awe, discovery, and a love of learning. More importantly, I believe that our work in schools calls us to build positive and meaningful relationships with students within a safe, caring environment. Only then can we get children to a place where they are ready to move forward and get on with learning.

“It hurts too much to listen to this song when it’s like someone is telling your sad story. I’m sorry Pink you had to go through that. I’m sorry I’m going through it. Glad you made it out…hopefully I can too.”

“I just had my parents arguing. They have been fighting for over a month and I finally snapped and started crying telling them to stop and ran out the house crying…I have an 8 year old brother to watch out for and I’m only 13.”

“I have split holidays, I have 2 addresses, I have 2 step sisters, 2 half brothers, my mum and dad never got married but it was a huge mistake to leave each other. And this happened when I was 8 and now I am 14. Not the best feeling having your family torn apart.”

“This is the story of my life!”


  1. Antonio, we were very fortunate kids to have not experienced divorce in our family. With the upcoming 50th wedding anniversary of our parents, I give thanks everyday of the wonderful parents we have. My heart goes out to those kids suffering and unhappy. Thanks for always making us remember what is important in life!

  2. This post is brilliant. I was just talking about this with someone not three minutes ago, and I hung up the phone and came to this. Thank you for taking the time to write about this as education gets more and more filled with numbers and less and less with time for relationships. I feel strongly about building those relationships, because without them, teaching means nothing. I had a couple reminders of this this week.

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