Hate me now; thank me later. Feeling a little frisky yesterday, I wrote this next to the sentence-combining activity in the “Today’s Tasks” menu on my whiteboard. I know my students don’t love our sentence work, and I wanted them to know I know, but as with many less-than-loved things we do in life, there’s benefit–even if we don’t like it. Sometimes I call it the broccoli factor. Like it or not, it’s good for you. So, I tell them, “quit yer whining, and eat your broccoli,” a steady staple in my room.
It is rare that teachers are appreciated in the present. If we’re lucky, sometime down the road, a student discovers that we actually did something for them, not to them, and they are grateful. If we’re super lucky, we’ll get an email letting us know that we made a difference. But that’s generally far down the road, in the future far removed. However, on occasion it happens in the present, and we are luckier yet, for teachers like anyone, like to be appreciated.
I got lucky the other day, and as it goes, I didn’t truly appreciate it till later. On Monday, obviously tired and stressed that she did not have the homework completed, Zab thanked me for my flexibility–I always take late work–and promised to have it to me the next day. I nodded with a smile, telling her it was all good, to get it to me when she could. I then went to the next student, not missing a stride, not thinking it was a big deal, for it’s not. It’s simply how I choose to conduct business with my kids. I choose to create a realm of possibility, which I will speak of next month when we discuss grading practices. A key element of that realm is being flexible with my kids when life outside my classroom conflicts with life inside my classroom. My class is important, but I realized long ago that it’s not nearly as important as I think it is. It is only part of my students’ world, and I have to accept that. I have. And, now when other aspects of their lives get in the way, I make sure that I don’t further obstruct forward progress by rigidly clinging to some notion that my class is all important. Thus, I choose to be flexible. And while some don’t truly appreciate it, and some even take advantage of it, on occasion, I am rewarded with a simple, heartfelt thank you from those who appreciate what I do. Unfortunately, I did not realize the sincerity of Zab’s gratitude until later Monday night.
Driving past the the high school after picking my son up from the middle school and discussing his day, I was suddenly snapped to attention as I came upon a kid on a bike, riding the wrong way on the icy streets, in the dark, without a light. Dumb kid. Craning my neck to see who the daredevil may be, I was surprised to discover the culprit was Zab. Burdened with an impossibly big backpack–no doubt full of books–with her helmet unstrapped and precariously perched atop her head, Zab was making her way home after basketball practice. In a hurry to get home and call it a day–finally getting to relax, I drove on shaking my head. About halfway home, it hit me, the sincerity of Zab’s thanks from earlier in the day. She meant it. She really meant it. And as I think now about my kids like Zab who take on too much and push themselves too hard, I am reassured that my being flexible–perhaps to a fault, makes a difference in worlds that are far more important than the one that exists 55 minutes at a time in 219. Thank you, Zab, for the reminder. By the way, she handed the assignment to me the next morning.
Have a wonderful Wednesday, all.