Friday, December 8, 2017

It's Been A Week

Lordy. Today is one of those days...No, scratch that. This week has been one of those weeks where I want to take all of the folks with all of those opinions about what we do in the classroom and make them job shadow me 24/7. Then, we're having a chat. At the end, I expect a raise. A big one. Make no mistake about it, I don't mean my principal, my superintendent, or my school board. Nope, they get it. I mean politicians. Parents who like to criticize teachers on Facebook. Reporters and journalists that like to spin negative stories. Yep, those folks need to come hang with me because it has been a week.

It began Monday, innocently enough. There was a behavior incident. I had to have a chat with several kids. Everyone was honest. Got to the bottom of the issue in no time. However, I was left a bit disheartened. We had a lot of bystanders, but no real positive leaders it seemed. I thought on that.

Tuesday I shared my friend Pernille's heartbreaking blog post about some bullying her daughter is dealing with. (HERE) We talked about what Pernille's daughter should do. We talked about why we always focus on changing the behavior of the victim, not the bully. What does that say? We talked about the need of bystanders to step up. 

Wednesday and Thursday we wrote. We pondered the quote in the front of our room - Tell your story. If you don't, who will? ~ inspired from the words of Don Graves. Kids wrote narratives and turned them in for rough drafts.

Last night I spent five hours reading over those drafts. They say seventh graders are hard, that they won't connect with their teachers, won't trust their teachers. They are wrong. These kids, these beautiful kids, wrote amazing drafts. I asked them to consider the multitude of stories contained inside each of them. I said one story was begging to be told this year. To pick that one and write it. 

Holy. Crap.

I sat last night and wept. I read about depression. I read about loss. I read about friendship. I read about family issues. I read about laugh out loud moments. I read about times when you feel that you are not enough. I read, I read, and I read.

Then I emailed. Many stories required an immediate contact to home, to check in. Many families and I chatted throughout the night. I wrote a paragraph response to each child, sharing some suggestions for their final draft. Often, I just shared that I was there for them.

Today I headed back in to the classroom. We were decorating trees for our advisory class. I was grateful to begin the day on a light note. As the announcements rolled through the intercom, one of my students whispered to me, "Mrs. S., there is a big tear in your jeans." 

My head spun to her, "What? Where?"

"Umm, your butt area..." 

Good grief. I felt behind me and yep, there sure was. I grinned at her as she promised not to tell. I assured her I was fine, pulled my thankfully long shirt down over my behind and said I'd change at my prep period during third hour. Gracious.

Classes began. We watched Kwame Alexander's Take a Knee (HERE) and had interesting conversation about discourse in our country. Moving on, we listened to some music while they began to spread out to work on their drafts. As I moved around the room during one class to confer, I told them how impressed I was with their writing. One boy looked up and said, "I'm feeling better now. It's like you took some of this load for me." 

I stopped immediately and stared at him. That's it. I truly did feel weighed down last night, and today. Some of these kids had hard truths to write about. I began to wonder as I read if I could handle it all. But maybe, just maybe, by writing they are giving up some of that burden to me and I will carry it so they don't have to. That I can do, and will do for these kids.

So to those folks that wonder what we do all day, every day, this week is a good example of just that. I am supposed to teach them to read, to write. But really, it is so much more. I'm trying to teach them to be thoughtful and caring citizens. To do that I have to help them see their mistakes, learn to be leaders and not bystanders. Teach them that if they see something, they need to say something. Show them that we can talk about topics that have a lot of emotion, but listen and respect the opinions of others. And finally, I need to show them, my amazing students, that they can hand over what is too hard to carry alone to someone that loves them. That we can move forward together. That is what I do, what we do, and I'm grateful for it.