Sometimes they are astute: “In your conclusion, you need to give them a reason to value what you just said.”
Sometimes they are poetic: “The night was a thick blanket of darkness . . . . A sliver of the moon was the only light in the sky, and it cast menacing shadows on the cracked pavement that seemed to twist and morph into different shapes and forms.”
Sometimes they are distracted: “But it’s my thirteen-and-a-half birthday!”
Sometimes they are so close: “I think what the author is doing is interpretating.”
Sometimes they are so far: “Surprisingly, the only thing I’m allergic to is diapers.”
And most of the time, they don’t realize how totally awesome they are: “You’ve got to be kitten me right meow.”
One of the best ideas I have had as a student teacher is to write down all of the un-filtered brilliance that bubbles from my students in class, in the hallway, to their friends, or to me and Mrs. B. My student teaching journal is now like a jewelry box collection of pure gold.
Or maybe a jewelry box of precious gems, all of different sizes and colors: uniquely beautiful but in need of gentle care. For this week I also heard lots of things about my students.
Sometimes they were positive: “He has come such a long way, from first complaining about not being able to write a sentence to successfully completing five paragraph essays.”
Sometimes they were complimentary: “I am going to use her paragraph as a model for how to incorporate transitions that help you take your analysis deeper.”
Sometimes they were disturbing: “Her father committed suicide a few years ago. Her mother is never home. Her babysitter watches her and lets her boyfriend come over. And the boyfriend is bad news, getting her into smoking and who knows what else.”
Sometimes they were worrisome: “His mother shows signs of depression. Now he does too. He is extremely quiet. He puts his head down. He will hand in work, but very inconsistently. His handwriting deteriorates over the course of the assignment.”
Sometimes they were heartbreaking: “Last year, his mother only had room for two of her three kids, so he got left out. This year, his mom doesn’t have a place to live, so he’s been staying with his dad, but he refuses to get the kids ready for school. His mom had been coming by for a while, but her anger toward her ex-husband is so strong that she can’t do it anymore. Now, the children are the ones being punished because they can’t get themselves to school.”
Hearing these stories (and more) during our team meeting on Friday was really overwhelming. I am generally an upbeat, positive person. I usually give others the benefit of the doubt. In our education classes, we learn to be sensitive to students because we don’t know where they’re coming from. And at North Providence I heard snippets about students’ home-life stories. But this just hit me all at once. As I sat listening, I could feel myself welling up. It is unfair for anyone to have to deal with these complicated situations.
It took me all weekend to write this post because I was still feeling really emotional about all that I had heard. My heart was heavy.
But as I talked through my feelings with family and some of my other teacher friends, I was reminded of the strength of the middle school model. The 100+ kids on the team have at least five adults very aware of their situations and taking action on their behalf. Before the meeting was even over, the special education teacher left to talk with someone from guidance about one of the students the team was especially worried about. Seeing how the team’s concern develops into a plan of action is really helpful. And as I plan to begin teaching this week, I am excited to incorporate #kidpresident’s heartwarming goodness into my class.