It's Quick-Write Tuesday at Teachers Write this morning! I'm adapting the prompt to fit my professional writing goals. I know this piece doesn't exactly fit the prompt, but I did incorporate some ideas from it.
Does Your Face Light Up?
You know the kind of October day that starts with you hitting the sleep button too many times? It's pouring down rain outside, and you went to bed late last night, working on lesson plans and grading essays. You stub your toe getting into the shower. After the shower, you bring down and leave your lesson plans on the counter and get a cup out of the cabinet, and you drop and break it. It doesn't even matter because then you see you've forgotten to make coffee last night, and there is no time for it now. When you get through the unusually thick traffic on the way to school, having dodged angry drivers, you realize you're ten minutes late to the forgotten staff meeting that was announced earlier this week. You look around the room, trying to avoid eye contact with the principal who is watching you stumble into the room, breathing heavily, brow sweating, toe throbbing. There are no more seats left, so you have to stand against the wall for the next 30 minutes. The subject of the meeting is how the school district needs to re-train the staff to defend themselves and their students if there is a shooter who breaks into the building. After the meeting, when you finally get to sit down and breathe at your desk and turn on your computer, you are cognizant of the fact that you have forgotten your lesson plans at home on the kitchen counter. When you open up your e-mail, you see that state scores have been finalized. You shakily open up the attachment to the e-mail to see what grade you've been given from the state based on the growth of each student, knowing your heart might sink at what you find out. You're avoiding the second e-mail which is from an angry parent. Do you know that kind of day? In five minutes, students are going to come through that door. How will you greet them? What will your face say to them?
Now it's summer. Plenty of mornings have been spent on my back deck, drinking coffee in the warm weather, enjoying the potted flowers and birds at the feeder. Those bad school days (which, fortunately for me, are few - there are many more good days, but we've all had those days described above) are but a distant memory. I miss seeing my students. Last week I met with my Mock Newbery 2014 Club at the park behind the local library, and the feelings I felt when seeing them all reminded me of an Oprah Book Club episode. I am a huge Oprah fan, and when her show was on (oh, how I miss that show), the book club episodes were my favorite, of course. That month, she had picked The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and they were having a discussion with chosen book club members about the book, and the subject of children came up. Watch the video to hear what Toni Morrison said:
At the end of the clip, Oprah explains that she never got the validation of her family's faces lighting up when she entered a room, but at church and school she did. I got to thinking about that at the club meeting last week because I was so excited to see all the kids, and they were excited to see each other and me. They were excited to talk about books, too! It was genuine and special. I loved that, and I'm already looking forward to later this month when we meet again. But then I thought about the kind of days that I described above - then what? Can we still focus on each child? When we are in the midst of the kind of day described above, do our faces still light up when the kids enter our school buildings and classrooms? Do we stand outside our doors to greet kids by name with smiles on our faces? Do we take the time to listen to what's on their minds? Do they know they can tell us about what they're reading, thinking, feeling? Do we feel genuinely happy to see them each and every day? We live during a time when the state of education can make us very stressed and anxious. Test scores, class sizes, and teacher expectations loom ominously over our heads. But what about each of our students and what looms over them? I think about Oprah's story when she was a girl, and school was the only place where she saw faces that told her she was special, cared about, and valued. I am fortunate enough to live in a school district where many kids' families are supportive, positive, and loving. I want my students to feel that support and love carried over into the school. I can't let those bad days and looming issues get in the way of SEEING each individual child. And if there IS a child who never sees a face light up for them anywhere but school, I want to be that lit up face. I know you do, too.