November Days of Gratitude: My kids, because where would a teacher be without a classroom full of children?
I have to admit, this year I have particularly charming classes and, as every teacher can tell you, that isn’t always the case. Classes of children take on personalities and this year, I have an incredibly sweet and funny group. They make me laugh, every day — sometimes in spite of myself. Often, really.
No matter the year, though — or the challenges — my kids are the ones who get me up in the morning. No matter what is going on in the rest of my life, they have taught me how to truly be in the present moment. They teach me every day about the value of connection and about the human spirit.
I teach middle school — and middle school kids are brutally honest. If they can’t tell you what’s going on, they’ll show you. And while they are hyper-concerned with fitting in while finding their individual spirits, they seek and need connection with the adults in their lives. My kids have stayed after kids have left, just to talk about nothing in particular — they have come up to me in the middle of class, desperate to connect over this issue or that — and, sometimes, they’ve left notes on my desk, like this one expressing sympathy over our beloved Toby, our yellow lab.
See? When you teach, your heart has to be ready for anything. I wasn’t ready for this one and it’s a good thing that the student who handed me this note (in a sealed envelope) was smart enough to ask me to open it later. When I did, I couldn’t stop the tears. 12 years old, and she knew. Oh, these kids!
Some of my kids are now all grown up and I will occasionally hear from them, even 25 years later! Last year I opened my email to find a note from a student I had in the early 90s. She was writing to tell me that she had gone into teaching, in part because of me. I hadn’t heard from her in 20 years, but she found me. Oh, these kids!
After you’ve been teaching a while, you’re liable to run into them anywhere. Several years ago, my family and I were traveling in Washington DC during spring break. We were in the Smithsonian and suddenly I hear my name being called. I turned around to find a student and his family — all grinning from ear to ear. More likely, though, I’ll run into them at the grocery store while I’m stocking up on toilet paper — or downtown on a Friday night, at a restaurant, while I’m stuffing a piece of bread into my mouth. Former students have waited on me and rung up my groceries. I still think of them as “my kids” and I know I must come across as motherly when I start asking them about their lives — or noticing that they have a cold. “Are you getting enough sleep?”
Some former students are even friends now on FB. I have to admit that I love seeing the dynamic, creative lives they are living. Some students who I remember so clearly, many years after they’ve passed through my doors, I’ve never heard from again and I hope they are living their best lives.
I know I am but a single dot in a sea of teachers for these kids, but for me and this career I finally found in my thirties, they have been everything.