I have no words.
One of my students, C., today was sitting and playing a hand-held game. I asked him if he had his work done and ready to turn in. He didn't look up but told me he left his folder at home.
Except that he has no home. He lives in a group home. I found this out earlier in the week when he got 2 warnings in one day for barking in class (14 year-olds are silly and crazy). Instead of a parent on the other end of the phone, I got a very crisp-voiced professional woman assuring me that his misbavior would be dealt with.
Today, in the middle of class, one of my other students asked me how old I am. I answered and they all laughed and said I looked younger. I laughed and said I got that a lot. C looked up shyly from his game and told me that his mother died when she was 42, 2 years ago.
I had nothing that I could say. It was too painful and I didn't want to draw attention to him. I just put my hand on his shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. He looked me in the eyes for a second and withdrew to go back to his game. I walked away to answer another question. This took all of 2 seconds but it will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Somtimes, this job is harder than people think and for reasons impossible to explain without crying.