I had two lovely moments today in a day that was not lovely outside of my classroom. Actually, three but the third one did occur in a classroom. Just not mine.
I taught an incredible Year 7 class two years ago, and one of the best, if not one of my all time best, Year 8 class last year. One of them subscribes so he will love reading that but it’s not anything I haven’t said out loud or before on this blog.
One of my colleagues shared a story yesterday regarding a quiet and soft girl from the Year 7 class, and a less quiet and less soft girl from the Year 8 class. I will refer to the Year 7 girl as C and the Year 8 girl as A.
C really is a gentle and softly spoken kid. Beautiful personality and very compassionate. She would hate to cause harm or inflict pain.
A is not like C. Enough said. You get the picture. Not malicious, A just doesn’t think. I love both girls dearly; uniquely vital just as they are.
A made a comment in class denouncing negative comments made about other people with indignation and contempt levelled towards those that do make comments.
C, who rarely speaks, chortled. A called her on it and C said, “You’ve called me a ___________ before.” A questioned this and C stood up for herself to the extent that A realised there was an irony in calling C what she did.
I was soooooo shocked that C held her own against A, and forced the back down with elegance and dignity. And I was so proud of her.
So today I told her how proud I was of her. And A said, “You were talking about me. I heard my name.”
I smiled and said, “Yes I was telling C how proud I was of her for standing up for herself.” A looked a little disconcerted and I explained, “Not a negative about you A but a positive for C for defending herself.”
A looked at me. Turning on her heel quickly added, “I miss your classes.” And disappeared into the room. I raised my voice to her back and said, “And I miss teaching you all.” Chuckling, I went into my staff room.
Last year A would never ever have made such a comment; she tried to maintain a position of no emotion at all times. Today she broke.
One of the hardest things as a teacher is saying goodbye to your classes at the end of each stage, sometimes year.
My Year 11 class this year has some students in it that I loved when they were in Year 7. For me it is like a reunion. I love getting them back; it’s like they’ve moved home.
But in those years in between, it is difficult. At first you go out of your way to say hi and to ask how they are and how everything is going, then it moves to hi and then to a nod or smile, and eventually it’s like you never connected.
And I hate that.
Today’s acknowledgement from A was difficult for her. But man I loved hearing it. And I loved that she loved me as much as I loved teaching her. And if she were to read this she would be writhing in discomfort at my use of the L word. Which makes me chuckle and smile.
And my third moment (really there were many more but the day had its fair share of yuck too) occurred when I took a colleague’s class. Context: I teach English but when I went to school we weren’t explicitly taught grammar; everything I know (not enough) I have learned through necessity brought about by teaching.
I dislike clauses.
I have never fully got them.
More context: I am a teacher but also the Head Teacher of Teaching and Learning with responsibility for Creative and Performing Arts and Literacy (don’t laugh – I get most of it). Students think I am scary and a bitch until they land in my classroom. There they learn the different personas that my roles inspire. As a Head Teacher I am the disciplinarian; life is black and white. As a teacher, I am humble, hilarious, compassionate and all things nice (unless you are naughty). Generally my kids love me as much as I love them. I said generally – I am not arrogant.
This class had only ever seen me in Head Teacher role. And then we had work on clauses. And I struggled. And I admitted my struggle. And I wrestled with the work to understand it so that I could teach it. Thank God for Lyn (support teacher) who saved me from complete failure and utter humiliation.
One of the naughtier girls, who is always scowling, started to giggle and revealed an incredibly beautiful and open face, and I asked her why she was giggling, and she giggled more. I realised it was the shock of her perception of me crumbling; the realisation that I am not perfect and that I am willing to acknowledge when I don’t know.
We both became fans of one another today.
And blow me down, we all know and can differentiate between independent and dependent clauses.
This is why I teach.
This is why I stay at my school.
And this is why it is important for smart people to go into teaching.
But you must love kids, all kids, and mostly the unlovable ones.
They need us most.
And that is where our real success comes from and impact is made.