I was peacefully enjoying my cheese enchilada and fried fish (leftover night) tonight when our vice principal came into the sisters' dining room.
"Hi, Roxanne, what can I do for you?" Sr. Rosann asked.
"Sorry to disturb, I actually came to ask Andie a favor," she replied. Our VP is from Louisiana -- she actually sounds just the slightest bit like Mama, which I find comforting -- but Southern charm aside, I was a little nervous. She came over to my spot at the table. "We have some kids who mistakenly came to the Worth the Wait presentation [chastity presentation that the kids eventually hear, but this was for the parents]. Could you take them to a classroom while their parents are at the presentation?"
"Oh, sure. When do you need me?"
"Well, how fast can you eat?"
Not knowing which students I would find -- eighth graders? first graders? -- I inhaled my potato salad, ran up to my room to put on shoes and grab my DVDs, hoping they wouldn't notice I morph into a total slob after school and that somewhere between Beauty and the Beast and The Princess Bride we could keep each other happy, then ran back down through the dining room to the cafeteria.
Now, I know you're not supposed to have favorites, and I don't in the sense that I treat any of my kids better or worse than others. The simple fact, at least in my experience, is that you just get along better with some students than others (I sometimes suspect they are people, too), and I confess I was excited when I saw the small group of sixth graders sitting awkwardly near the door. Likewise, I smiled a little when they saw me, beamed, and waved frantically.
They tailed me to the library and went through my entire movie collection, during which I told them they're not allowed to see any of Quentin Tarantino's movies until they're 30.
"But Miss, I saw that one. And that one. Dude, that one is awesome! That girl kills everybody, like whoooooo-waahhhh!"
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that. I like you being innocent."
"Ha ha, Miss, you're funny."
Eventually we settled on Napoleon Dynamite (although my Tarantino fan put up a good fight for Lord of the Rings, which made me really, really, proud), and after they made fun of me for not being able to work the DVD player (it wasn't plugged in), we sat around the tables and talked through the whole thing.
It was easy to just sit with them and chat, as opposed to directing and refereeing them as I normally do. There wasn't the smallest sense of awkwardness. Of course, it takes a lot to make me feel awkward, but I was excited to see they didn't feel weird about hanging out with their teacher, either.
You see, one of the guiding principals behind Salesian education is being accessible and available to the children as a friend. Not the kind of friend who lets them get away with stuff, but rather the sort that listens, guides, and supports. St. John Bosco said that the "playground" -- that is, the places we meet the children in their element -- is just as important as the classroom, and I was grateful to have this chance to be with my students out of class.
I didn't get into this gig just to fill brains, you know? Which is good, because I'm not convinced that's happening much. I am always gratified when I see my students know I care about them. I have a fair number who tell me I'm "the best", and there's no way they're really taking about my pedagogy, because that's pretty rough around the edges (and the middle). It is, I think, a sign that they have understood on some level that I'm here for them, and that has resonated with them.
When Mrs. LeBlanc called me to have me bring them back, I was a little sad, but was comforted when they turned back and yelled, "See you in class, Miss C.!"
Indeed, you shall.