Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slice 18 - Teaching where you live

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are challenging ourself to write a Slice A Day. Here we go! 

I teach in the same community I live in, and it is a small town at that. Some of my teaching friends think this is insane – you have no privacy! You will run into parents and students at the grocery store. Have I lost my mind? But here’s the secret, only it’s not so secret, I love it.

You see my friends are right, you do lose your privacy. Any given trip to the grocery store is almost guaranteed that I will run into students – past or present – or their parents. When I’m at the pool in the summer I have a never ending stream of visitors at my chair. I usually know the waiters or waitresses at local restaurants. The pizza delivery guys are former students. All of that is true, but I adore it. I can ask all of these students my every present question, “What are you reading?” I can recommend books to them. I ask them what is going on with their life. They ask how old my sons are, what I’ve read lately, and so on.

At the end of each school year I always tell my students, usually as I hold back tears, that I am not only their fourth (or now, fifth) grade teacher but their teacher for life. I love watching them grow, seeing who they become. I enjoy seeing the shadow of that ten year old kid in a twenty-two year old face.  And while I don’t want, as Donalyn states, dependent readers, I still enjoy getting messages like this.

The student who sent me that on Facebook is in her junior year of high school. I love that she thinks enough about me enough to message me and look for book recommendations. She is the same student who came to my classroom when she got her driver’s license. I’ve had her brother and her in my classroom and have truly gotten to adore their entire family.

See that’s another thing, and maybe it happens in other cities too, but I love getting to know a whole family. With so many of the students I’ve taught I’ve been welcomed into their family. I’ve been invited to family parties, graduations, and more.  And I’ve had the opportunity to watch the kids grow before my very eyes.

This was never more clear to me than tonight. I needed a babysitter so I could go out to dinner with some friends. When I asked a colleague if her older son could babysit she texted me back, he wasn’t free but her younger son was – would I be ok with that? Her youngest son is in 6th grade. I’ve known him since he was about four. He was in my fourth grade class and when I moved up to fifth, he stayed with me. I adore him and have loved watching him become such an amazingly kind and respectable kid. Of course I’d love to have him babysit.

He came over tonight to hang with Luke and Liam while I ran out for dinner. I had told my boys that it was his first time babysitting and they should ensure he had a good time by not killing each other. When Luke (he’s a Luke too) arrived I showed him where our cell numbers were, explained that I’d be a town away but Chris was just uptown (three blocks away) if he needed anything. He seemed excited but ready. Coming home I walked in to three beaming kids. They all told me they had a blast. I was proud of my kids but also so proud of Luke (my student, Luke). He has grown so much.
So yes, I do lose some of my privacy by living in a town of 5,000 people and teaching there as well. But for what I give up, the rewards come back a million times over. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.