This may turn into a long post, but bear with me. I have to share what’s on my heart this week. I am still in early stages of implementing my new writing goals in my classroom, but I felt it was important to take a break from talking about writing to share these things.
Sometimes, as teachers, we have to celebrate the small things in our classroom. Our job is hard! So when something comes along worth celebrating, I try to relish in the moment. Kids in high school are a different breed, y’all. I don’t see a lot of things my cohorts see. I don’t deal with runny noses or accidents, or really even with many behavior issues. What I do deal with is a lot different. Students who are on the brink of dropping out. Students who are on probation. Students who are living on their own already because of less-than-stellar home lives. In fact, just a few months after I started teaching high school, a student brought me a drop out form to sign. This affected me way more than I ever thought it would. I suppose, in my mind, when a student dropped out, they’d just be there one day and gone the next. I didn’t know I would actually have to have a conversation with the student before they left.
Now, I don’t want to make it seem like all of my students are on a weary path. In fact the overwhelming majority are extremely bright, enthusiastic, college or career bound kids that come in daily, work hard, and learn. But again, it’s those ones that you just know are struggling, with life, school, or whatever else, that seem to tug on your heart-strings.
One is a student who is that kid. You know, the one you see coming and kind of want to hide. He would much rather be at home, at work, absolutely anywhere but your classroom. He misses a lot of school and, when he does come, he is often late. He misses work but doesn’t mind. “That’s fine I’ll take a zero.” He’s typically loud and loves, unfortunately, any form of attention available from his peers. He is very well liked by his peers, so I’m not sure why he still feels the need to seek out that attention, but that’s another mystery for another day.
I walked into the office upon arriving to school one morning. Went to clock in and check my mail, and saw, what I thought I recognized as this student sitting in the back conference room, alone. I asked our secretary if that was him and she said yes, that he was making up time. I’m not sure what it was but I decided to go say hi. “Good morning! Glad to see you here!” He said “good morning” back and I went upstairs and got ready for my classes. When his period rolled around he came straggling in. We were doing a lab that day. Labs are particularly hard on the teacher, and particularly hard on the late-2nd-trimester-pregnant teacher especially, but are invaluable for the kids. We were looking at onion cells and the students were scraping their own mouths to look at their cheek cells. I demonstrated how to prepare these slides and set the kids to work.
After everyone seemed to be on their way, I went back to my desk to grab a drink, put my flavor enhancer in my water and of course made a mess. (White shirt, purple water dye, lab gloves on, spillage… oh yeah). He sees me struggling and comes and takes the water out of my hands, takes it to the sink, washes it, dries it, and hands it back to me. One of those times where you just stand there thinking “Ummm… what is going on?” I said “Thanks friend!” and he continued looking at his cells.We wrapped up the lab and started cleaning up. I had the samples I had prepared plus some other glassware that needed cleaning and headed over to the sink to wash. He again takes this out of my hands and proceeds to wash it all himself. By this point, I’m glancing around waiting on a hidden camera to show up.
The bell rings and the kids start to filter out, and he’s kind of lagging behind the crowd, eyes glued to his phone. As he approaches where I am, he looks up and says, “What’d you mean by that this morning?” I think for a second and said “What do you mean?” He says, “Why’d you say you were happy I was here?” I just smiled and said, “Because I am! I was glad to see you!” He just kind of looked at me and nodded and walked out. He came in the next day and, though we were not doing lab work, he worked equally as hard on what we had to do that day.
As teachers, we never know when a smile, comment, or a “good morning” is going to be exactly what a kid needs that day or week or in their life in general. I’m not sure what made me stop and talk to him that morning but I sure am glad I did.