Yesterday all the teachers at my school were called into a meeting. One of our students was found dead in his car, a few cities away. Police don’t suspect foul play which leaves us to speculate that it is either a freak accident, natural causes, or suicide. We were told only to tell students the facts as we know them: he was found, it was not murder. This is supposed to stop the rumor mill but word travels fast, even in a big school. And our kids are wise. They can come to their own conclusions. I mention all of this to say that yesterday, today, and the coming week will not be easy ones in teacherland. I’ve already had one student come to class sobbing. She chose to hide behind my desk and I let her. When she was ready, she talked. These times, while hard, also remind me of the tenderness of our kids. They are so worthy and deserving of love, all the love we can give them. For me, my kids are about to leave this place and truly become a part of the adult world. They know they have to advocate for themselves from now on and that’s a big, scary prospect. They know the world isn’t going to be as kind or accommodating. Some feel ready, others don’t. No matter which category they fall into I hope that I am able to give them just a few more days of safe space, of a place where they’re free to make mistakes without judgement; where they know they’re loved no matter what. And let me tell you, they give this back. This teaching and loving isn’t a one-sided endeavour.
This was in my “On this Day” for today:
These kids get me in the feels. I may not love everything about teaching but I love each and every one of my students. When I say, “my kids” I say it because I think the care and love shared in the classroom goes both ways; there is some kind of pride in that, it’s ours.
Our kids, no matter how close to adulthood, deserve our love. They deserve every chance they can get to be reassured of their worth, value, and capability. They deserve to know that that worth isn’t attached to the things they’ve done, bad or good. They are loved because they are enough.
For most of the kids we, at my school, work with, they haven’t been told often enough that they’re loved, they haven’t been shown enough authenticity from adults, they have been through some shit. They deserve someone who isn’t afraid to open the doors to their own past and present and show them it’s possible to keep showing up, even when the the hard stuff starts to outweigh the good stuff. They deserve to know they aren’t alone. I love my kids. And I love these little spontaneous reminders that sometimes that love is reciprocated. People say, “it must be so hard to work with teenagers, I couldn’t,” but I think teenagers get a bad rep for no reason other than simple misunderstanding. They’re simple: show them love, show them respect, and listen. That’s all they need and want. Do that and the loyalty they show you and the dedication they have to working is unlike anything else you will ever experience.
I feel blessed to have a chance to touch even just a few of those lives. I’m glad this showed up in my “on this day” today. I needed this reminder as we end this year together.
And, it even gets better; these were left in my box:
These beautiful letters reaffirm the strength of shared humanity. My kids don’t feel loved and return that love because I was good at teaching them figure 19B. They love and feel loved because I kept it real with them. I always told the truth. I never pretended to be something I wasn’t and I never expected them to be anything they were not. I just expected them to show up and work to the best of their abilities, each and every day. And they did because they felt respected and heard.
As we close out this year, as many of our students mourn the loss of someone they love, as many of them really grasp the reality of their impending adulthood, I am reminded how incredibly lucky I have been to walk this journey with so many of them. I will truly miss the student aspect of teaching. And, I genuinely wish that our education system, our administration wasn’t what it was, because I have a heart for working with teens. They’ve got ahold of that heart and I am completely and totally okay with that, which says a lot coming from someone who runs from love.
There is just something magical about the classroom.