I’m a teacher. I spend all day with kids. I think like a kid. I eat like a kid. I know how to play “Zip, Zap, Zop”.
I laugh at jokes about poop.
I thoroughly, totally, unequivocally enjoy being surrounded by kids.
Among other people my age, this makes me just a little…..weird. When I am out to dinner with other 50 somethings, and I an not familiar with the TV show that they are discussing, I just might resort to making a fart joke. It isn’t pretty, but it’s who I am.
Now, I know that it is May, and I am supposed to be counting the days until summer vacation, but instead I am immersing myself in the pleasure of being with a whole crowd of kids. It is May, and I am getting a little bit sadder every day.
I love my whole class, as a unit, more than I can express. Every year I think to myself, “This is the BEST class I have ever had!” (But this year it’s true!) Every May I am intensely aware of the subtle jokes and wordless messages that we share all day. Every May I feel a tug when I see how easily we laugh at each other’s jokes, understand each other’s fears and share each other’s crazy ideas. Today, like every day in spring, I look out at the faces of “my” kids, and I feel my heart plummet at the thought of having to let them go. I look at those familiar, beloved smiles and eyes and cheeks and sneakers, and I want to freeze the moment. I want to hold them close, although they would cringe to hear me say that. I want to keep them near me, to watch them grow, to share in every step toward the future.
I love them all; I do! But I also have to admit that some kids are extra special. For me, it isn’t the kids who are always perfect who touch me the most. It isn’t the angelic, sweet tempered, fully cooperative kids who hold my heart. It isn’t the ones who master the skills without effort who really get to me. It isn’t those kids I dream about.
I don’t know why, but it is the mischievous, grinning, sparkly-eyed tricksters who stay in my mind for years after they leave my care.
Some kids challenge me all day long. Some of them just will NOT accept that what I say is true, or right or the best idea. They ask questions. They demand answers. They refuse to go along and just follow orders.
These kids tilt their heads, baseball caps leaning rakishly over one twinkling eye. They grin their gap toothed grins, give a little shrug and ask, “Yeah, but what if…….?”
These are the kids who make wild guesses. They are the ones who use the art supplies to create elaborate interplanetary vehicles. They hide behind the door when I am out of the room, make puns out of the history lessons, send paper airplane notes to their BFF on the other side of the cafeteria.
They are annoying, vexing, exhausting and unbelievably charming. They are the “Mark Twain Kids”, the Huck Finns and Tom Sawyers of the fifth grade. They don’t always get the top score on the rubric, but they invariably “think outside the box”, wherever the box may be. Sometimes they blow up the box……
It is May, and the sight of those Mark Twain kids every day makes me come to attention, pull out my best teacher strategies, and get to work. And it is the idea of never seeing my Huck Finns again that brings me to tears when I am safe again at home after a long day of keeping them all in line.
These are the kids who make it so important for me to have a few weeks off to recuperate. It is the promise of kids like this coming in my door in the fall that keeps me excited and helps me to get through the long, calm weeks of summer.