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.