Monday, February 2, 2015

One Day Closer

We’re coming up on the 100th day of school.  A couple of Fridays ago, I posted a quote on Instagram that read, “Every day is one day closer to summer.”  Don’t get me wrong- I love my job as much as a person could possibly love their job.  But it was one of those days.  By the time you’re closing in on a hundred days together, they know how to push your buttons.  And more often than not, they can’t resist pushing them. 

It’s that time of year when a classroom starts to feel more like the backseat of a minivan.  They’re relentless: “He touched me.”  “She looked at me funny.” “Somebody stole my pencil.” “Do we really have to do the whole page?” “Why can’t we pick our partners?” “Are we going outside today?”  Our answers are just as predictable: “You’re fine.” “Look at someone else.” “No, you just lost it.” “Yes, and I’ll give you another page if you ask again.” “I let you pick last time and it didn’t go well.” “No, the wind chill is 17 degrees outside.” 

Tomorrow I get my second new student in the past ten days, which will make 29 little people I’m responsible for from 8:00 til 3:00 each day.  To say that it’s constant is an understatement.  Recently, during a spelling test, I used the sentence “I go to the bathroom several times a day,” as an example for the word “bathroom.”  One of my students replied, “I’ve never seen you go to the bathroom.”  Touché. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed, to feel more impatience than love, and to focus on the less endearing qualities of those twenty-some little people during these bleak days of winter.  (We only had one snow day in January…how did that happen?)  But the truth is, somewhere over the course of these nearly one hundred days, they’ve worked their way into my heart and become “mine” in such a way that doesn’t happen overnight.  There’s something about reaching this midway point of the year that suddenly makes it feel like they’re slipping through my fingers only just as I’ve gotten a handle on who they really are. 

I didn’t realize how much so until the first of my two new students arrived a few days ago.  Suddenly, there was this new person standing in front of me and all I could think was… “Did I get her nametag laminated?” “Do I have a math workbook for her?” “When am I going to evaluate her spelling and reading?” “How is she getting home today?” “Who might want to be her friend?” “Is she going to be a behavior problem?” And at some point, I simply thought, “I don’t know her at all.”  Then, it struck me how much I had taken for granted how well I do know those 27 other little people at this point of the school year… how I can anticipate their next move (good or bad), how I can tell from their face when they walk in the door on Monday morning what kind of weekend it was at home, and how I’ve learned to love each of them for who they are deep inside, even on those days when I have to dig a little deeper to get to the good parts.  

That day I posted on Instagram about every day being one closer to summer was the first day this new student was with us.  It was one of those days when everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and I went home that afternoon feeling like she surely must have felt like she landed in a moron of a teacher’s classroom.  I felt like I spent the whole day fussing at students and messing up lessons, and I wondered if I’d be able to redeem myself the next week in her eyes.  Exactly a week later, I received an email from her mother with the following closing sentence: “She loves her class and thinks you’re so wonderful.”  I’ll admit it made me stop and smile- maybe I’m doing something right with this roomful of little people after all.

So, tomorrow, when the next new student arrives, I’m going to try to remember to stop and smile again… and to introduce him to this couple of dozen little people who I’m proud to call “mine.”  Because even in these long winter days of indoor recess, tattling, and button-pushing, I’m pretty lucky to have them.  Lest I forget...   

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