A school has many hallways and each one has a different story crying out to be heard. The halls carry the average childhood conversations and much more. The sounds of the day are not for the faint of heart as they can eat you up, but if you are in tune with the haunting melodies the bonds and respect are endless.
The everyday pain kids feel in todays world is met with my smile and open heart. So many of my students fall through odd holes that whisk them through terrors that they discuss with a certain adult quality. Just this week a mom came out of jail, two kiddos were in crisis, and another stepped forward to save a friend, while another is struggling with teacher issues that impact his little world. This was Monday. Then there are the tears that just flow for countless reasons but the rawness is too new to share. Year after year, (number nineteen is almost in the books) I put kids not tests first. Looking at the week, watching their faces, rescheduling my educational requirements, teaching and re-teaching, and getting things done in a way that does not follow the standard and perhaps break a rule or two.
Most days it is not the lesson that is first and foremost in my mind. It is the smile I give and long to receive. Students tend to know me as one who will listen and find a solution on the campus to their issue. However, always the first to say the obvious. “I do not have the answers, but I will fight to find the help you need.” This along with a bit of humor and a few glass half-full thoughts to get them through the day, or worse the weekend without the constant of school schedule and the support not seen at home. This is when I pray.
This time of year I have a stream of students following me just for my smile and the one I find within them, that I can force out, so they can feel a bit lighter for the day. I often have thought that the perfect Pied Piper costume should be my standard uniform. My door is always open and lunch in my room is a revolving door so students can have a safe place just to be without other 8th grade lunchroom gossip. None of this is to brag about me, I am not special, just tuned to a different drummer.
While my methods are the antithesis of the testing generation, (I have 4 weeks of testing just around the corner) I stick to my heart as I know within my classes my students are working harder within the curriculum confines and I am producing writers. We just get down to business, write, share, write, share, edit, share, write, and turn-in. I follow the curriculum but march to my own beat. Seeing beyond the lessons to create the dynamic that touch my population and make them want to write and rarely ever using the same lessons twice, as each group is different. I break boundaries and create trust through writing. Reading about my students/parents time in jail, their parents rejection, having to work to put food on the family table are much better launch prompts than the pretend prompts that will come soon enough to prepare for the test which I always look at as their scores, not mine, not the schools.
I wish more would let go and teach as the conversation surrounding the test is wearing on our kids and forgetting our overall goal of teaching to the child. This season of testing smile more, be positive, let go of this is your score, and love your kids, and please remember if we are stressed they are overwhelmed. Insert some fun where you can even if it is fifteen minutes of recess for no other reason than play.