I find it hard to believe that I have been retired from teaching for 17 years. Of course, when I see my former students on Facebook showing pictures of their grandchildren, it brings me back to reality. That’s one of the things about Facebook I most enjoy—seeing those “kids” now grown up and doing well. For some of them, I wasn’t so sure it would turn out that way.
Most teachers I know are invested in their students, want the best for them, worry about them, try to encourage them. So when you have a class load of 120+ kids, that’s a lot of worrying. I was reminded of that worry yesterday when I was volunteering at an event for fourth-graders.
One girl made an impression on me. She was small, with short dark hair and big dark eyes. As she reached for another cookie, she explained that she was getting it for her grandmother. We chatted for a while, and I was impressed with her composure, her conversational skills, and I guessed that she was an older sister to one of the fourth-graders in the group. When she had left, I asked her teacher how old she was. Ten! I couldn’t believe how mature she was for such a young age.
Then her teacher began to tell me her story. She and her brother were living with their grandmother because her mother was “drugged out.” Now, however, her grandmother had been diagnosed with stage four cancer. “What will happen to them?” I asked. The teacher just shook her head. I could see the pain in her eyes.
Then she turned to speak to a boy who had been running around disrupting the group. “He’s so smart,” she said to me, “and he tests me all the time.”
Suddenly I was back in front of my students, worried about the sweet young woman who was being abused by her step father, frustrated by the so bright young man who was channeling all his energies into gang activities. So many students with real problems that I could do little about.
These are the kids that break your heart as a teacher, the ones you want to take home and nurture, the ones you pray for, the ones who you hope will show up on Facebook someday with happy stories.