Sunday, June 13, 2010

behind my steely reserve

Yesterday we held our graduation ceremony and for the third year, I had the privilege of reading the graduates' names as they crossed the stage. It is the perfect task for me because a) my OCD is highly valued as I belabor exactly how to pronounce each syllable correctly and b) I cherish that moment when I meet each kid's eyes and smile, and c) it is a position where I am not in line to hug them. And I only say this because while I understand the importance of showing emotions, I am desperately afraid of being out of control once mine start peeking out. People who know me well appreciate that I am not an indiscriminate hugger. I only do it when I truly feel inspired, kind of like when I only ask how someone is doing if I really care. If a student initiates a hug I am happy to reciprocate, but I have to steel myself against crying because I know once it starts it won't stop for a long uncomfortable time. Which would ruin my whole reading-names gig, and then I'd cry about that too. So I like standing at the side of the stage, out of graduates' line of sight, where I can beam at them as they walk past but stay composed for the next name.

Yesterday, the young Anakin graduated with his class. Teachers are not supposed to have favorites, and really I wouldn't call this kid a "favorite" in the dictionary definition of the word; some days my head throbbed after merely trying to greet him, sometimes I was grateful he was absent, often I just nodded my head and refused to argue with him. But in the grand arena of my teaching career, I'm not looking for favorites. I am most fulfilled by overcoming challenges, building relationships, illuminating new paths even if I can't make kids walk them. This boy challenged me almost hourly during the last three years I've known him (every few minutes when he was in one of my classes). But he begrudgingly allowed me to keep trying to build a relationship, he occasionally seemed to listen when I offered suggestions. And he hugged me before he walked off the stage yesterday. (I did not fall apart. On the outside)

The hardest part of teaching, for me, is not coming up with engaging lessons or managing the classroom or even dealing with difficult behavior. The hardest part is letting go of our students, not knowing what they're doing for six hours each day, and hoping they believe we love them and are available whenever they need us.

10 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You are my role model as a teacher. I truly mean that.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I love your big, kind heart and the steely reserve it takes to be a good teacher each day.

They are so blessed to have you.

Anonymous said...

and that is why I wish I could clone you into our school system. don't get me wrong we have some great ones of our own... but I am greedy and would wish to have you up here teaching our kids!

karolyn

Jenn@ You know... that blog? said...

My wish for all kids today is to have at least one great teacher like you in their lives.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

You guys. Much love & thanks for the compliments.

Kay said...

what an honorable place to be. Congrats to all the kids!

apathy lounge said...

Our Fifth Grade class had their "graduation" as well. I was so proud as they crossed the stage all scrubbed and in their cleanest clothes, which is saying a lot. I wonder what will become of them in the future.

LarryG said...

these have truly received an education and that is a noble effort

Very Mary said...

sigh. that makes me kind of lose it...I get it.

yogurt said...

Even though you kept your cool when he hugged you, he knew and he gets to carry that with him. Makes such a difference in a kid's life. And I do know something of the feeling - there are so many former clients that I will find myself wondering hard about. I want to pick up the phone and ask -- but can't, of course, so I'm just left wondering.

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