Every teacher has moments with their students that they cherish. I have been fortunate enough to have had MANY, and I can’t deny that each moment made so much more room in my heart than there was before. Kids are open, and loving, even when the world in on their shoulders, and those kids, those moments, are the ones that made my time in the classroom that much more important.
In the last Head of The Class post, I talked about my “Heart and Soul” group, and that was during the 2008-2009 school year when I was going through some significant life changes. Those kiddos were the group that got me to hold on through some very interesting times. I also mentioned the student who I still keep in touch with that wants to be at/in my wedding! She and I have had a long-standing discussion regarding the prince charming that has not yet shown up in my life (but will). Even when I moved here to Colorado, she mentioned it! But back when she was moving on from fourth grade to fifth, and was switching schools, I thought it would be nice to write her a note telling her just how much I loved our connection, and was going to give it to her on the last day of school.
I knew she had a tough fourth grade year, and wanted to send her off with good vibes. Well, as it was, our connection was significant, and she did the same for me! She wrote me a note that brought me to tears. But even more so, I kept it. And I still have it, and sometimes I go back and read it because it reminded me of just how important we are to kids that are in our classroom.
Behavior No More
I had a student (girl) many moons ago that I was “warned” about in terms of her behavior. I was told she was mean, and defiant, and didn’t get along with the other students. I try not to buy into what others say about the kids ahead of time, just because a lot can change during the summer, and especially when the kids get mixed up into a new group. Dynamics change, and sometimes it’s just a change in teacher that does make a difference. Well, when I got her, she tried to push every button I had, except when it comes to the tough girls, I don’t have any buttons because I was a tough girl myself, so I know them. I get them, and I get them quickly and squash the behaviors. With her, it was the same thing. I remember one day when she was trying to act out to get my attention, so instead of reprimanding her or asking her to stop what she was doing, I simply sat on her desk, looked down at her and said, “Listen, I’ve been you. I’ve done everything you’ve done, but I’ve done it longer and I’ve done it better. You still want to keep doing what you are doing?” She shook her head. That was in September. She blossomed throughout the year because she knew we were one in the same. And by the end of the school year, she also wrote me a note saying just how much she changed and was so grateful for being in my class. She wrote that we never know why some people come into our lives, but that she hoped our paths would again someday cross. I cried, she cried, and we hugged. I didn’t see the girl I was once “warned” about, because that kid just needed someone who knew why she was doing what she was doing and give her some positive attention. That’s all any of us really need
I know I have that note somewhere, but at this very moment, I can’t seem to find it. I kept it to remind myself that if nothing else, she had at least one good school year. I know she’s had a tough time since leaving me, as I have heard from a friend who knows her, and even though our physical paths have not crossed, we sent “Hellos” through my friend.
Teachers get flowers of all kinds. We get flowers picked out at recess, we get flowers kids find as they are walking to school (I think some of these are picked out of yards, but I usually don’t ask too many questions), and we get flowers from stores. One of my 6th grade boys came in a few years ago on Valentine’s Day with a bouquet of a 1/2 dozen red roses just for me! I had never received red roses from a student before, so this was a special treat. Because he was a little late for school that day, I made a joke that he brought the flowers to sweeten the fact that he had missed most of my first period lesson, so from that day on, any time he was late, he’d have to bring me ONE red rose. The kids all got on board with this, and thought it was fun to jokingly harass him when he was late, asking him where my roses were. Needless to say, I didn’t get them. Not that year anyways. The following year, when he was in 7th grade (and started the year being “too cool for school”), he stopped by my room on Valentine’s Day, and pulled out another 1/2 dozen roses from his backpack.
A couple of my teacher friends were in my room when this happened, and we gushed a little. If anyone has ever had a 7th grader, and especially a boy, you know they go through some sort of early-life crisis and they seem to change personalities for the year. He definitely started off the year like that, but I was glad to see that he was beginning to get back to the sweet 6th grader I had and loved. So after 2 years of flowers on Valentine’s day, I kind of expected that in his 8th grade year, I’d get another 1/2 dozen roses… I was both right and wrong. This time, instead of a 1/2 dozen, I got a dozen. I was not expecting that, and was not only shocked, but completely honored. I knew that he was having a really tough year, and it seemed that very few people were getting through to him, so to be awarded this kind of honor, I knew that we shared enough cherished moments to maintain a level of understanding. He may not even know just how important those days were to me, but he had just as much an impact on me as I seemed to have had on him.
The Big Sendoff
I had a very unusual group of 4th graders two years ago. Unusual in the way that they all got along, and even when they didn’t (which wasn’t often), they worked out their situations on their own. They also ran themselves. I barely had to say “boo” that year because they just got it. And when years like that happen (again, which isn’t often), you become more of a family, living in one big happy house. And that’s what we were. Toward the end of the school year, I knew there was something happening, but wasn’t sure what it was. I was tipped off that the kids were planning some sort of surprise, but didn’t know just what or when it would happen. So the last day of school arrives, and I attended the 8th grade graduation for a while. During that time, the kids were in the room preparing with one of my paraprofessional friends. When I came back in the room, the kids were sitting in chairs all around the rug, and 6 of them, 4 boys and 2 girls, were standing next to one another with flowers in their hands, facing the kids in the seats. One kid led me over to a chair that had a “Reserved for Ms. Grodberg” sign on it, and another kid handed me a box (yes a box) of tissues. Boy do they know me!
At that point, some of the parents had joined us in the classroom, and within seconds, the music started. The six kids sang along to “All of Me” by John Legend, because it was a song we all loved and would sing together sometimes. Of course, the waterworks started immediately and didn’t stop pretty much the whole rest of the day. After that, they started to sing my favorite song, “Imagine” by John Lennon. How on earth??!! I had forgotten that my friend at work asked me my favorite song a few weeks before then. They had her working for them! And there was a lot of “behind the scenes” action going on with her and some of the parents. This group was something else. During the song, we all got up and started dancing together.
When the song was over, they presented me with TONS of flowers and gifts, some of which they made themselves. Those kids… I have never, in my entire life, been so surprised, nor have I ever been showered with such love and thoughtfulness. I was touched, and even though I have never had my own biological children, I don’t feel necessarily that it matters, because this kids are and always will be, my kids. They know it. Their families know it. I know it.
Kids do things in a way that adults can’t. They have a different way of thinking, and they don’t question themselves like adults do, so when these cherished moments happen, it’s usually from a place of pure intention. I am one lucky person to have had all of these moments with these kiddos. And these are just some of the big ones. It’s nearly impossible to divulge all of the smaller, tender moments we share with kids when they are part of our lives. I’m just honored to have had these few…