Wednesday, April 25, 2012

22 Days

22 days of school left.  Today I felt like this was my bittersweet mantra.  The kids are just itching for summer, and therefore their behavior and ability to focus has taken a steep decline.  In moments of frustration, I found myself repeating "22 days, 22 days, 22 days..." exasperatedly in my mind.  But then one of those small, sweet moments would sneak in, and I would find my mind whispering "22 days, 22 days, 22 days..." with the little sadness of knowing that "my kids" would only still be my kids for a little bit longer.  Looking back, I have seen amazing development and maturity occur over this year.  On a day to day basis, these things are hard to see, but then I'll have a moment of clarity where I realize that they all look a little more grown up and turn their work in on time a little more often....for some students it's still those baby steps of progress that make my day.

I take stock in the success of these kids.  I want to know that when they move on, they've got the tools they need to succeed.  More importantly, I want them to know that they can come back for a visit if they feel like they might fail.  I don't think I ever realized how attached I would grow to this group of kids.  Maybe that's how I know that this is what I'm meant to do and where I'm meant to be.  Even on the most frustrating days, my students are worth the little headaches.  

Over the past week and a half, we've been writing poetry in English.  Today, my students turned in their writing and I was thrilled to see such creativity on the pages of their journals.  Even the kids that hated poetry made me laugh with their witty poems about hating poetry. But there were also moments when my heart broke in half as I read about the sad, dark places where some of my kids are stuck right now.  I had to go to the counselor about a few students whose poetry held suggestions of self-harm and self-hatred.  Just knowing that at thirteen years old, a child's life can seem so terrible that they would think about the possibility of giving up is unbearable to me.  There is so much good and excitement and perfection in this life that they need to know and feel and see.  Having to acknowledge that I had never noticed the signs of their sadness before I only had 22 days left with them also hurt my heart.  How could I miss something that was crying to be noticed from the pages of their notebooks and the sad smiles on their faces?  On the other side of that coin, at least I have 22 days left to do all I can to help them see that someone cares.

After an emotional roller coaster of a day, grading and listening to poetry, I happened to receive a pleasant surprise from a student that I have written a lot about lately.  This kid just will never cease to amaze me.  After doing time in detention this afternoon, my newly appointed homeroom student aide and 7th grade English student popped her head in my door.

"Ms. Herring, I wrote you a note in detention!" I had checked on her in detention and made her promise to read a book. You can only win so many battles....

As she walked across the room to my desk, I began my lecture on the value of reading and how tomorrow  is a reading day and I don't need her causing chaos because I know she hates reading and she'll try to cause chaos....blah, blah, blah....she just could not stop smiling.  She nodded her head and said, "I know, Ms. Herring," dropped a note on my desk, and left.

"See ya tomorrow, girl."  That's right.  I'm her "girl."

Dear Ms. Herring, 
GIRL, Thank you so much for your help this year and for being my teacher.  You have taught me bundles of stuff this year, and I actually got a good grade because of you. Thank you for your help again. I appreciate it a lot. In other words, you're freaking AWESOME.

Consider my day made.  Time to make the next 22 count.  A lot.

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