There are those students that settle in our hearts through smiles and eagerness. Through always completed work, a willingness to share, and never missing a beat. We easily laugh with them and caring about them is natural. Then there are those kids that march into our hearts. Fists closed in anger, doors slammed in their wakes, bolts of lighting seeping from their eyes. Our rational minds put up a fight with those and yet seemingly while we fought their anger with every bit of kindness we had in us, they carved out the largest bits of us. While we tried every thing we had, they walked right in and took residence in our souls, as if they were always meant to be there. And when we say goodbye, it seems like they take that piece of us with them and we wonder, and we hope, and we worry. Oh we worry. Even though they are no longer ours, they really still are.
8 years ago I taught an angry 4th grader. A child that stomped his way into my heart and stayed there through shouts, vented frustrations, and yet an achingly quiet plea for more kindness, more caring, more understanding emanating from his very core. As we said goodbye at the end of our year, I did not realize just how much of a piece of me he took with him. And his absence from our school after summer is something I will never forget.
I worried about him then and I worry about him now.
We love these kids that we teach even when we shouldn’t. We call them ours, even when they are not. Even when it may seem strange to others that we lie awake worrying about something we have absolutely no control over. We try our very best to make the time we have worthwhile. To make it somehow better well knowing that we will never be able to fight the beasts that swallow some of our students outside of school. I am not a savior, I probably never will be, but I can care, and I can try, and I can make my slice of their world not as hurtful, not as harmful. Even when it seems in vain.
So to the angry 4th grader who is now an angry junior. Whose life was just dealt another blow today. Whose tragedy seems to play out in the headlines rather than become a thing of the past. I didn’t forget about you. I bet I am not the only one. Us teachers are strange like that. I know that I cannot make your life better, I know that I cannot make the wrong things right. I can only care, I can only be, whether you need me or not. So know that. Know that when you cried on the last day of school I cried too. And I cried the day I heard you weren’t coming back. Life may seem like it is worth being angry over but don’t let your anger drown you. You can change the world, but not if you don’t feel like the world is worth changing. I saw something in you those many years ago, I hope you see the same now. You are worth fighting for. You are worth caring for. Don’t let the world make you believe otherwise.