Dear Kid ,
There you were, shuffling your feet, looking at the floor, cautiously approaching me as I sat on my computer after an afternoon of conferences. “Hey Mrs. Ripp – do you still teach math?” I turned around, surprised to see you. “Of course…” I say. You look up, smile, “I think I need some help…middle school is kind of hard.”
But the truth is you didn’t come to me last night for math help. You came to tell me about how you are trying your best but the teachers don’t see it. How it is hard to stay awake some times. How it is hard to not laugh when your best friend does that funny thing again. How the teachers don’t get you even though 2 weeks ago you decided to really try your best but now you think your best will never be good enough for those teachers. They already give you that look, they have already given up.
My heart sank a little. I heard what you said but also thought about the teachers, thought about what it must feel like from their side. Thought about the disruptions, the laughter, the trying to reach you but you’re not listening. Thought about how even though we try to start each day with a fresh new chance for each student that sometimes students push us so far that it gets harder and harder to forget. That we try to see the good every day but that we are human too and sometimes our emotions get involved.
So I told you to prove them wrong. To not fall into your old self, to not let your silliness, your anger, get the better of you. To buckle down not for the sake of the teachers but for yourself. For your future. Yeah, middle school grades may not determine your future but they set the habits that will. To show them what we saw last year. That kid with the infectious smile. That kid that got so excited when something went right. That kid with dreams and plans that were bigger than where they came from or what others believed they could do.
It was time for me to leave. To go home to my own kids that need me. I told you to stop by anytime. That even if I’m teaching my door is always open. That I miss you and I believe in you. You finally smiled, started to turn away then came back and said, “You know, we were your family. We were like your kids last year. We felt that. Are we still?”
I had to take a deep breath, I get emotional really easily right now, “Yes, you are. All my kids are. Doesn’t matter how old you get or what you do. You are still my kids even when you’re not kids anymore.”
He left, waved. I gathered my things and drove home.
I know now that I can’t quit teaching. That is why I do it. For those kids that need us so ferociously to believe in them even when they screw up. For those kids to feel part of our family. For those kids to always stay our kids no matter how old they get. That’s what I teach. That’s why I’m a teacher.
Thank you for coming to my room. Thank you for walking through my door.