I only have a week left of my current school job. I always have mixed reactions to these transitional times - bliss and anxiety. I'm elated that I will finally have time to prepare for my upcoming trip to Siberia (and relieved I may finally have time to clean my house) but I get anxious ending things. I always have, and I'm pretty certain I always will. First, I get very attached to the kids. I know I may be part of a very small club, but I adore 7th graders. It may just be my favorite grade to teach. I love their complicated adult/child selves that at once strive to prove their maturity while simultaneously embracing that mysterious joy that only kids seem to have 24 hour access to. They are too adorable for words on some days, and I just marvel at their sweetness and courage and wonder if their parents take the time to do the same.
There are some stand-outs, there always are. I always tend to gravitate towards the outsiders, the ones who just don't seem to fit in. The sad ones. In everything I do, I try to engage them and make them feel important and cared about. There is one boy who has been so quiet and angry from the first day. I wondered what caused his pain and lack of engagement. Yesterday I found out he had lost his older sister in a car accident this fall. Now I understand the mask of anger and defiance he wears. What can I do? I pray for him, I try to shower him with attention when I work with him. But in the end, he is going to be out of my life shortly and I will wonder about him for years to come.
It's hard to be a teacher. For me, anyway. I often find myself wanting to stop all the charades, the teaching and schedules and homework assignments and just sit and be with them. Ask them questions. Tell them how remarkable they are. Share with them the secret that they have the power to make a difference in this world. Remind them that they matter - they really matter. But, in a great twist of irony, I know that I would lose my job if I did that -- did the one thing these kids really, truly need far more than learning Shakespeare or algebraic equations.
I wish I had a dual life. This one, and another where I would spend all my time dismantling our current educational (non)system and start from scratch. One where I would devote every minute to making the children of our world marvel at their own worth and magic before they ever learned that 2 + 2 = 4. I grieve over the current state of our schools. I always have. I only really continue to work in that dysfunctional system because I know I am giving my students a much needed break from all the madness. I give the school an excuse to pull them out from behind their desks, and put them in a space where I can level the playing field and show them something far more magical and life-affirming than fluorescent lights and busywork.
A good half of the reason I removed Nastia from school was due to my firsthand experience of the insanity of our education system. Of course there was an other half at play - the fact that she was not learning due to her own set of unique needs and learning disabilities. but even if Nastia were an 'A' student and without an IEP, I'm sure we'd still be homeschooling. I just can't see putting my daughter in that prison. I just can't.
Anyway, of course there is much more to this, and perhaps I will get to write about it at some point, but right now my life has only little puddles of free time, and I must get back to work. My students await:)