this is the longest week in the life of a teacher. the week right before state tests. i am averaging 12 hour days, and if someone brings up something from a conversation two days ago, i have a hard time recalling it.
today was also one of those days where i got nothing done afterschool for a long time because my door was open and kids just keep drifting in and out to say hi, to ask their grade (you'll know on your progress report next week), to ask for make up work, to say hi again, to ask to use my phone, to ask if i have food, to say hi (again), to try and ask the story behind the framed dollar on my wall (more on that later), to show me their soccer-ball-kicking skills.....
i did eventually get annoyed enough to kick them out, but since i am down to four weeks left with them, i savor these moments. yesterday i was just watching my second block class work silently and intently, and i thought 'i may never have a class like this again.' it feels like teaching high school again with that class; they are my 'highest' class according to reading comprehension, but i really think it is just that they have done the work to get somewhere and that takes maturity. so they are more mature- they follow rules not because they love rules or want to please me, but because they know that's just how the world works. they are freaking hilarious because they understand sarcasm, subtlety and innuendo. (cause in point: last week we were reviewing pronoun-antecedent agreement, and i was explaining the correct answer without really having read it so i kept saying 'it is he'she because blah blah blah' and i could tell they were giggling and trying to tell me something but i shushed them. then i looked up. the sentence ended with 'if they learn to do him/her correctly.' (it should have been 'it'). I said 'oh- nope that should be it- that would be awkward' class: that WAS awkward!")
i digress. this week we are supposed to get lists of kids who may fail for the year and have to take summer school. one girl, brianna, was hanging out to see what work she was missing and to see if she was on the list. brianna really confuses me as a teacher. she can read better than everyone else in her class (she is in my low class, where the average reading level is about 4th grade), but for some reason she performs very poorly on tests. She doesn't do homework, but then she can get stuff pretty quickly in class. She is always talking to teachers after school and says she knows she needs to work harder and do homework, but so far this year has not changed any habits. but what is really great about her as a person is that she is so genuine and vulnerable. she is always smiling, but then she can have this dreamlike, zoned-out air sometimes too. i just can't figure her out. but today after spending a good hour in my room, studying for a test, taking it, grading it, and then talking about her chances of passing the 8th grade, she asked me to write a note to her mom to say where she was. i try to speak/write in spanish so i wrote part of it in spanish. then i asked her 'how do i say, 'i believe in you' 'yo creo en ti'. So when she walked out the door, i said 'yo creo en ti!' and she stopped and turned and looked at me- getting really quiet and serious. 'thank you for everything you've done for me this year mrs. smith. thank you for always being there for me.'
always. i have only known her for 8 months. she has hung out with me after school maybe ten or twelve days. i constantly chastise her for not doing her work and tell her she can do so much better. but i haven't 'always been there for' her. it really humbled me, and i realized that in her thirteen years, a year is a really long time. and that when she looks back at eighth grade, she will probably remember coming to my class after school. that fondness and encouragement in tiny spoonfuls will seem much bigger than they really are in her mind. i am the benefactor of my students' misshapen reality.