“Níl aoin tinteán mar do thinteán féin”
This is an old Irish proverb meaning “there is no place like home.” On a recent brisk, magnificent fall morning in Indianapolis, I attended an Irish Mass. It was the closing ceremony of the annual “Indy Irish Fest” held at a local park.
I arrived at the Mass and took my seat on the grass. I gazed around. The congregation wore every shade of green imaginable, young “lads” forcefully struck a ball with hurleys, and displays of the undulating Irish landscape provided the perfect backdrop. I closed my eyes for a moment; I could hear the sweet sound of a jig as a musician elegantly drew the hairs of his bow across the strings. For a moment I was home in County Clare.
In my blissful state I thought about the idea “home.” What does it really mean? Is it the snug sanctuary of your bed, or the loving family members that surround you? Is it the haven where you truly feel safe and at ease? For many this may be so, but for some of my students this is not the case. This year I began teaching third and fourth grades at a Notre Dame ACE Academy, one of the five new NDAA schools in Indianapolis. Each day I try to meet my students individually, to hear their stories and their perceptions of home.
For one girl, home is a different floor or bed each night. With her mom, she travels from house to house, from friend to friend, seeking someone who will graciously host them. For another, home is a bedroom she shares with five siblings. Another’s home hasn’t been comfortable since the water was turned off. Knowing where these students come from has helped me chip away at their protective shells and understand them as people—allowing me to foster a positive and lasting relationship with them. Through these conversations with my students, one distinct trait has emerged: their burning desire to be loved.
I have come to understand my purpose at my current position. Granted, my job description requires that I teach so my students meet grade level standards and pass the next standardized test placed in front of them. In reality, that is not the case. I must make my classroom a home for them, a place where they can find peace and refuge. For those short hours of the day, we as a school need to be that beacon of light and source of hope.