I watch them come in, hands clenched, eyes downcast, not quite sure what to think. I tell them to take a deep breath, tell your story, there is nothing to be worried about.
Our students lead their conferences and while it is not perfect, it is incredible to watch their story unfold. To see them decide what deserves their attention, to see what they find valuable. To see those that come from home ask them questions and see them truly realize what we have known for quite a while; they have grown, they have changed, and yes, they are almost ready to leave us.
And so I smile and share the good. Tell them how proud I am of them. How I have seen them come in not quite sure what to think or how to speak up. Not quite sure what this 7th-grade thing really is to this…these kids that have conquered almost all that we have challenged them with. And I remind myself to tell them that I will miss them. Because I will; these kids with their stories, these kids with their dreams, their kids with their hopes that this year would be different and for many of them it has been. They marched right into my heart, threw down the door, and settled right in.
So before I forget I remind myself to tell them that they matter.
Before I forget I remind myself to tell them that I was the lucky one.
That they made me smile.
That they made me laugh.
That they made me cry too, sometimes out of frustration, but mostly out of pride.
That they pushed me harder than I thought I could take but that I am still standing.
Before I forget I remind myself to tell them that their stories deserve to be heard, that their work matters and that they, too, have changed the world.
That they can be more than they see themselves.
That they make people better.
That there is a place in the world for them, no matter the thorns they sometimes unfurl.
I came into this year not knowing if 7th grade was for me. Haunted by the perpetual doubt of whether I was enough. Whether I could handle the challenge of another year of second-guessing, of feeling lonely, of not quite fitting in. Whether I was meant to teach this age, to teach just English, to be at this school. It turns out I could because this year I was never quite alone. The kids were right there, believing in me, believing in us. Perhaps not every moment, but those that mattered. And so in the end, after watching these kids with their hearts, their hopes, their dreams, and even their fears tell their stories and own what they are, I feel it is time for me to tell mine; I am a 7-th grade teacher, for better, for worse. It turns out I just forgot to remind myself of that.
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.