Every Tuesday the amazing gang at Two Writing Teachers hosts a ‘slice of life’ challenge. Anyone who wishes to participate simply has to write a post on their blog exploring some aspect of their day. I write my SoL posts quickly (under an hour) and post them without much revision or editing.
Today was my eighth first day of school. As often happens during the first week back, my throat is a desert and my feet feel like pulpy bundles of nerves. Two distinct pleasures mark every first day back: greeting my new students and reconnecting with old ones. Seeing old students can be intense, depending on last year’s relationships. Even though it’s only been nine weeks since I saw 2015-16’s kids, they can often feel like strangers. Students who hung out in my room before school, boys and girls who trudged up and down the hallways trying to find me just so they could relay the day’s accomplishments and struggles, no longer need me.
They’ve moved on to other students, teachers, and adults. The specific services I rendered, whether it be help on a writing assignment, tips for dealing with another teacher in the building, or simply a compassionate ear during the emotional gauntlet that is middle school, aren’t necessary. Maybe that’s not the best way to put it. I remember reading that caring relationships have two components: one person to offer care and another to receive it. Last year’s students now have a new crop of teachers to nurture them.
I’ve always found this aspect of teaching interesting. I spend 180 days working closely with students, gaining their trust, falling in and out of favor with them, and ultimately doing whatever I can to grow their love of literacy. Teach the writer, not the writing. And then after an academic year they move on. This can be a wonderfully humbling experience. So when I saw my boys in the hallway this morning, I didn’t take it personally when they kept our reunion conversations short. We fist-bumped, said ‘what’s up?’ and kept it moving. Because we all had new relationships to cultivate.
This year’s students seem pretty much just like last year’s students: awesome. For right now they remain almost featureless in my mind. I’ll spend the next 179 days learning to see who they are and how they express themselves. This year’s goal is pretty much the same last last year’s: to use literacy to help adolescents become caring individuals who are willing and able to read, write, and remix their worlds. In this capacity I function with an abundance of joy, here to work with every and any student who walks into my room.