What. A. Week.
Friday was a long time coming. There were moments (several of them, actually) when I seriously wondered if I was going to make it to the weekend.
The week started out well. My Monday and Tuesday were the kind of days teachers dream about. My 6th graders were creating blogs and begging (yes, begging) to post every single day.
My 7th graders were wrapping up literary essays. On Monday I eavesdropped on writing groups. They were talking like writers! On Tuesday I held individual conferences and was blown away by the depth of their thinking.
But then Wednesday happened. Over the course of 24 hours I went from ‘best job ever’ to ‘not coming back tomorrow’.
Fortunately, a meeting at Starbucks with a past student teacher was on the schedule for Wednesday. The timing could not have been better…hot coffee (after surviving middle school bus duty) and a revitalizing conversation. We covered it all…individualized education, collaboration, the writing process, prospective job changes, and of course The Bachelor.
Bring on Thursday!
But Thursday was no better. Luckily, I had plans to meet up with a few coworkers. We talked. A lot. We laughed. A lot. I left feeling normal. I needed that. A lot.
I decided to give Friday a shot.
On Friday, as my 7th graders began writing personal essays regarding political beliefs, I found myself repeatedly reminding them of the purpose of the essay. I wanted them to understand party platforms, I wanted them to realize where they stood on the issues, and I wanted them to be able to discuss the issues intelligently.
Some struggled to get started. My advice?
Stop thinking and start writing. Then read what you have written and make sense of it all. Allow your writing to crystalize your thinking.
Today I am finally going to take that advice.
Here’s the situation:
About a month ago, I texted this to my kids (I had some brilliant idea for a blog post…lesson learned—be careful what you ask for):
The middle child was the first to respond:
- “an upbringing free from adverse childhood experiences which may not seem like a big deal but seems to be the most important thing in being able to have successful relationships/experiences out in the real world.” (He also provided a link to a review of Hillbilly Elegy to prove his point.)
- “I don’t think I learned enough about money—saving it, how to think about spending it, and realizing what it isn’t worth spending on.”
I couldn’t disagree with this.
Then child #1 chipped in with “…I am very grateful for the fact you gave us the opportunity to experience a looooooot (no typo) of activities and places as kids.”
That we did.
But then, I read on.
“One thing that was not perfect was the whole ‘we are not your friends’ deal the ‘we are your parents’ thing. I didn’t feel like I could tell you much, especially in high school […] I didn’t feel like I could go to you with some problems I had out of fear.”
That took my breath away. And not in a good way.
Shortly after, the youngest agreed. “I think that was the one ‘negative’ thing…”
I was angry. I was hurt. I was crushed.
It was hard to hear.
I was filled with regret. Had I been wrong?
My husband and I had always provided a united front on this. We’d be friends when they were self-sufficient.
Over the next few days, this gnawed at my insides and made my heart ache. Ironically, it popped up numerous times in conversations at school and even in articles I read, so I couldn’t escape it.
Or forget about it.
And it wasn’t just the situation with my own kids that was troubling me. It was my school life with my students as well.
That’s what everybody is talking about in the world of education these days: building relationships with kids. If you want students to be engaged in their learning, and be successful, you need to build relationships.
I couldn’t help but question my philosophy on the whole ‘friends’ thing.
To me, friend implies fun. An equality. A relationship built on wants and desires, not needs and what’s good for you.
I’m not the fun teacher. I make kids read. I make kids write. I make kids think.
I push them to be their best.
Projects need to demonstrate learning. Actions have consequences.
I don’t even let them eat junk food in the classroom. (My jokes are pretty well received, however.)
Was I missing the boat on this as well?
After putting this off for almost a month (and not feeling any better for it), I knew I needed to write about it regardless of not understanding what it all really meant.
I started digging back into the string of texts.
And that’s when I noticed this:
And then this from my youngest:
How had I missed these?
There is a bigger picture.
And I pray my students realize this when they think about me ten years from now.