I’m pretty sure it hasn’t hit me yet that I’m not going back. It’s hard to imagine that my routine will be different next Monday. Instead of returning to 2nd grade I will be lining up to practice graduating! In the early weeks of student teaching when I looked at the calendar and the weeks and weeks that remained before I would complete my student teaching requirements, I thought it would take FOREVER to get to this day. It turns out the weeks fly by much faster than I could have imagined.
You may think student teachers go to their placements in order to learn how to teach, but it turns out what I was really learning this semester what how to love a child. We all know those sparkly, bubbly, happy kids who are easy-going and sweet; it’s easy to love them (especially if someone else is disciplining them, and their parents take them home at night). And we all know those kids who are just plain naughty and you wish their parents would control them! In a public school classroom, chances are you will have a nice mixture of the two. But you soon realize that some of those sparkly, bubbly kids can have an attitude when they aren’t in control, and some of the naughty ones can steal your heart.
A few weeks ago I was grading math tests at the dinning room table. My parents (who are both career educators) happened to be around as I was grading. It didn’t take long for my dad to laugh a bit at my continual verbal reactions to the work I was grading. When I asked what he was laughing at, he said, “You know, it’s only been a few weeks, and see how emotionally invested you are in those kids? How you react to their performance?” What could I say, it was true.
I got home from school today, carried my bag and flowers from teacher appreciation day into the house and sat down to read the “Thank You” cards my class surprised me with today. As I read their heart-felt messages, it brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard to believe that I may never see most of these kids again. Many of them tell me I’m the best teacher, or the best student teacher. Others tell me to “have a good wedding” and good luck in 1st grade” (which I will be teaching next year). Then there are the unusual, special things from particular students. Things like the girl who I could not stand for several weeks because of her attitude but grew to love who told me “I loved you being our Teacher. You're so sweet. I wish you would always be my teacher.” I’m about to cry just typing these words. This was a student I found hard to love, and I really had to work at it for a while before it became easy. I did learn how to fully love her, and I think she recognized that. I wonder what will happen next year, who her teacher will be, and if she will be happy.
This is what it means to truly love a child. It is to love them when it’s hard, to want what’s best for them. It means loving and being kind even when that child is being disrespectful in tone, or rolling their eyes. Loving a child is something teachers get to do everyday. This semester it was 25 precious children I got to love every day. As I sit here with my stack of thank yous, I know that I will continue to love these 25 for a long time.