She was nine, tall for her age, with shoulder length brown hair and parents who deeply cared about her, but not each other. She looked to me as if I had all of the answers, as if, in our classroom, everything that was happening outside would be forgotten, would not hurt as much as it did.
He was nine as well, dark brown hair, the oldest in his family and already labeled the broken one. The one that could not be trusted. The one that did not care. The one that heard his parents fight about his intellect even when they said they believed in him to his face.
He was ten. Tiny for his age but solid muscle, hands clenched in fists most of the day waiting for the next threat, for the next person that would see him as an easy target, waiting to prove them wrong. He hugged my pregnant belly whenever he could and whispered his words of advice to the baby. “Be strong baby, be kind baby, come soon baby.” I cried the day he left.
He was eleven and had already experienced the biggest loss he could. As he placed the picture of his mother into my hands and told me it was the most precious item he owned, I sat in silence. How could a child who had lost so much still trust me with so much? How could he show up and want to discuss books with me when it seemed so irrelevant in the face of it all?
How could any child, who has faced trauma, possibly find relevance in what we do all day? In writing, in reading, in speaking well?
And yet he did, and yet they did. They came to class, on the first day and on the last, hoping that in this classroom, that within our school they would be seen. They would be heard. They would be loved, not just on the days where everything went well, but also on the days where it didn’t. On the days where they pushed as hard as they could just to see if we still stood there when they were done.
And I think of my own kids. How different they all are. How none of them learn in the same way. How all of them have their own loud personalities. How all of them make me hold my breath as they enter new phases in their lives and I hope that wherever they go, they are met with open arms, because underneath all of the crazy, underneath all of the yelling, underneath all of the sometimes struggle, there are these kids that will love their teachers like only they can. Underneath all of the things that perhaps do not fit into what a typical learner looks like, there is this kid that just wants to be liked and taught in a way that makes sense for them. That will tell me to buy their teacher flowers, and please get the pink ones, because pink is her favorite color. That will ask me how they can possibly go on to the next grade level because that means leaving this teacher behind. That worry that perhaps next year they will not like school as much, and I hold my breath and hope they will.
Those kids with their stories. Those kids with their broken hearts. Those kids with their stoic facades. Those kids with seemingly perfect lives that still come to us with such a chip on their polished shoulders. Those kids that dare us to prove them wrong, that tell us they hate school, that they hate us. Those kids who tell us they don’t need us and for a brief moment we believe them because after all, we are only human, and there is only one of use and so many of us, and perhaps, we are not the teacher that will make a difference. And perhaps I am a terrible teacher. And perhaps I have no idea what I am doing.
Those kids that tell us so many times that everything is stupid that we actually believe them and we are left with nothing but the fragments of what we thought made a great teacher. Those are the kids that will push us to the very last day. Who may fight us until the very last minute. Who will continue to push, to yell, to tell us how little they care, just to see how we will react. And so for them, we stand tall. For them, we keep trying. For them, we believe. Because sometimes being a teacher simply means having more faith in the child than the child has in themselves. And so that is my plan as the days count down. To believe. To try. To love. And to always remind myself that while I may not be enough right now, I am the teacher they have and so for that very reason alone, I have to keep believing I might be.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released. I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.