Sam, my friend and early childhood teacher/former writer/fellow corps member (that’s a mouthful) said she heard that something happens after Halloween and the kids are never the same. In a bad way. Suddenly they reappear as slightly to severely worse behaved versions of themselves. That’s the most scared I’ve been in regard to Halloween in about a decade.
I think it’s entirely possible and more just a reflection of them losing that last bit of new-teacher, new-class innocence. I blogged a while ago that they were becoming more comfortable. We have reached a whole new level of comfort now. Yes, there are more misbehaviors. But also, their own unique personalities are really coming out. Each one is no longer just a ball of tears and wistful play-dough dreams.
First, there’s George and Weezy. There are 17 kids, only 4 tables, which means that one of the tables has 5 kids crammed into it. And these two are the craziest pair. They fight alllll the time. Yet they only want to play with each other. The boy is the smallest kid in class, and definitely the farthest (furthest? Where is my AP stylebook…) behind academically, but he tries so hard. He’s the baby of the class, and whenever I get tired of students talking over me or some of the more mature ones trying to get each other in trouble, I just look at his baby face, pick him up and he giggles. And the girl (Weezy) is my little miss attitude. She is VERY particular, mostly only talks in a whisper, and is basically a 50-year-old woman in the body of a 4 year old. They argue about who needs more elbow room, and he always tries to sit next to her or hold her hand and she screams “No! I don’t like that!” Then, five seconds later, she’s following him into the blocks area or standing right behind him in line. Sometimes she just flips out and starts crying (perhaps because he put the corner of his paper too close to hers) and he just looks at me with pleading eyes and says, “I want to play with her. But I don’t know how!”
Then, there’s my teacher’s understudy. This little girl used to be the biggest behavior problem. Now she chants the rules all the time, herds the rest of the students, and even makes random teacher calls, such as “You’re going to get moved to orange.” I’ve even heard her mimic me, turning to her table buddy and saying in a familiar singsong voice, “Oh wow. Good job! You did really good on this.” She says she wants to be a teacher. It makes me ecstatic. She’s also been the surprise. We are taught throughout TFA training not to pre-judge students. Our mantra is that every child can and will succeed. I fully believed this about every student, but I can admit that going in I started to feel like the road to success would be just a bit harder for some. Teacher understudy was one of those. Her behavior was terrible and she came into school with far fewer knowledge than many of the others. But somewhere, it just clicked for her. Her behavior has completely turned around. And, she is one of the brightest in class. She comes over to my desk during snack time to remind me of little facts that she has picked up. The other day at lunch she looked up at me, pointed to her eyes and said “Sight!” This is from our unit on the 5 senses not long ago. I just beamed.
I wish I could pinpoint where changes to her, and others, happened. Then I’d know I was a successful teacher. But I don’t know. It just seems like a miraculous gift that they are actually learning things. I guess that’s what keeps me going back, even when I have really rough days, like earlier this week.
Over the weekend one of my best friends, Celeste, finally came out to Baltimore. This was extremely special for a multitude of reasons. When I found out about TFA and moving, I had a lot of fear about my friendship with Celeste going the way of many, normal long-distance friendships (i.e. a card at Christmas and an occasional hi on Facebook). And I got really needy. But Celeste has been completely amazing. She calls me all the time, even when I don’t call her back for several days because I’m bogged down with the madness here. And she’s sent me countless little reminders of her friendship and faith in me – such as “good luck” flowers, and some of my favorite jewelry. She’s so thoughtful, and I just wanted to show her a good time here and make her realize how grateful I am for her always being so persistent and patient in our friendship. When she left on Monday I was the saddest I’ve been in months.
Feeling sad scares the crap out of me. Thankfully, moving here has been a lot easier on my heart than I thought it would be. There’s a lot here to love and a lot to keep me distracted from missing Arizona. But just in general, I tend to run away from feelings. Sad feelings, complicated feelings, even romantic feelings. I’ve been running from them all for about a year (which was the last time that I really felt them in any sort of magnitude. Back then, when Eric was ignoring me and I was breaking up with Derek, I felt them far too much, so now I’m on the other end of the spectrum). I guess we’ll see how this winter fares. Feeeelingssss. Either way, there isn’t much time to be sad. First, because I’m too busy and too focused right now (I have 17 little people counting on my every day). Second, because those 17 little people can make you smile like crazy every day. It’s the little things. Last week during lunch I helped some of the other teachers in the school hang fall-colored leaves and pumpkins down the main hall of our wing. The teacher that made them had a few left over so she let me put them up in my classroom. When the kids came back in and saw the leaves hanging from the ceiling, there was such an uproar you would have thought I’d commissioned da Vinci to paint a mural in our classroom. Oohs and Aahs. And some priceless comments: “I love this! Thank you for doing this for us Ms. F!” and “It’s beeeeeauitful!”
I wish I could make adults happy that easily.