I hear her voice the second I open the Google Meet
That's not uncommon.
She is usually one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.
Sometimes she has a question about an assignment.
More often, she just wants to visit.
She and her mother moved up from Mexico two years ago, when she was in fourth grade.
He mother works during the day and I think she's lonely.
I don't mind.
She's sweet and sparkly and playful and just a little bit mischievous.
She makes me laugh every day.
And she's also brilliant.
An English language learner who is totally rocking the school thing.
I adore her.
But today she is sobbing.
"Ms. W, I-I-I might be a little late to class."
She is still crying hysterically but manages to say, "Something really bad happened."
I immediately wonder if something has happened to her mom or dad, but that's not it.
It seems she was in the apartment alone, and a maintenance man came in to do some work.
Totally legitimate, but she didn't know he was coming, and thought someone was breaking into her apartment.
And she was terrified.
She tells me she doesn't want to be there by herself.
Her mom is coming to get her.
The words fall out of my mouth.
"Do you want to come be with us?"
She's a remote learner and has never been to the school.
"I can come?" she asks.
"Sure. Why not?" I say, pretty sure my principal will be ok with putting a kid's mental health in front of COVID rules.
"I'm going to ask my mom."
A minute later she is back.
"I can come," she says.
Fifteen minutes later, she walks into the room.
She is smiling, but it's not hard to pick out that she has been crying.
And it's all I can do to keep from giving her a big hug.
Yes, school is about academics,
but every year,
and this year especially,
it is so, so much more than that.
I only wish people understood....