Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sharp Relief

(Written Friday afternoon.)

The 8th graders are taking their finals in my classroom in the mornings, so I've been teaching in a different room most of the time this week.  Yesterday was my last time teaching in the classroom I've inhabited for the last two years, and at the beginning of class I mentioned this to the 7th graders.

Mistake.   I thought I was sentimental.  Apparently I've got nothing on these kids, especially the girls.

First, during prayer, they produced a lengthy and moving string of prayers in thanks for me and my fellow ACEr at my school, and for our well-being as we move on.

Then they started sneaking up to the board while my back was turned working with other students and writing all kinds of sweetness.  All the while they were telling me how much they're going to miss me and asking if I might come back for their graduation next year.

Then Daniela walks up to me and very frankly, sweetly, sincerely, says, "Ma'am, thank you."

I kept it together just long enough to say, "You're welcome, Daniela," and send her back to work.  Then I went and sat behind my desk and put on my best poker face.

Then Judith looks up and catches the suddenly watery nature of my eyes and says, in Spanish, "Look, she's about to cry!"

They all went, "Awwww!" and got up and surrounded me and hugged me.  And then I lost it.

Then I told them they were jerks, and one of them goes, "But we're your jerks!"

They've been teasing me about it since.  When I got  out of my car with my sunglasses on this morning, Ivette smirked and said, "You know why she's wearing those glasses..."

Today, I taught my last class for the foreseeable future.  I'm sitting in an empty classroom, for once not relishing the peace but wishing for a few more minutes of pandemonium.  I'm pretty positive I'll find my way back to a classroom sometime, but I have no idea how long from now that will be.  This is strange, because if you had asked me even ten months ago if I thought I might not be in a classroom next year, I would have said no way.  And yet, here I go, off to sit at a desk, not working with kids.  It's putting me in a weird state of mind -- I'm not having second thoughts, and yet I am wondering what the hell I'm thinking leaving the classroom.
  My heart aches a little.

Teaching is such a weird occupation, at least for me.  It takes everything I've got, provides minimal or invisible returns, and I love it.  Love it.  It consumes most of my energy, time, and thought, and well beyond my oft-stated belief that education is a human right.  It's the act of teaching, the process of writing plans, being in the classroom, dealing with kids, nudging, prodding, pushing, questioning, challenging them, getting to know them, laughing with them, reigning in my impulsive reactions ("What in the hell are you thinking?!"), pulling my hair out, wondering what I'm doing wrong, trying to do it better, catching glimmers of sanity, the mild shock when a kid suddenly looks and acts a little bit older, a little more mature, and the very normal, unassuming, undramatic* little blip of satisfaction, encouragement, and hope when a kid does well.  Every shade on the human spectrum of emotion, every week.

I'm not having second thoughts about the new job, and I am still just as excited about it as I was in March when I got the offer.  I've no doubt it's where I'm supposed to go.  There are (at least) two sides to everything, though, and the flip side of this coin is very much in focus right now.  This blog is named Theophany because of my constant wonder at the ways God reveals himself in the world, and I have encountered him in the most mundane and profound ways in this profession.  For the last three and a half years, even as I've fought the impulse to beat my head on a desk, I've loved it and felt right doing it.

I have one more final to give and some miscellaneous old work to grade.  I need to tear down and pack up my classroom.  And that's it.  Two weeks from now, I'll be taking up permanent residence in an office at Notre Dame, not a classroom anywhere.  It is the definition of bittersweet.

*This, incidentally, is why I sort of hate most Inspiring Teacher Movies

No comments: