Holy smokes, just like that, it’s the end of the year! The first day of school flashes before my eyes, I was pregnant, had my son, came back, and now it’s the end of the year…just like that (said more slowly while exhaling). Seems like Career Day was just two days ago. I remember posing with my school-aged children on the first day… it truly is hard for me to wrap my mind around this end of the year.
On Twitter Land, I see countdowns until the last day of school (I’ve even wished for that last day), I’ve seen countdowns for the first day of the NEXT YEAR (won’t even touch that one), and I suppose that too much counting either way will keep me from being present in the here and the right now.
Yesterday, I left school and I was ready to say goodbye to my students. I was sleep-deprived, malnourished, and just, plain tired. Probably a little old in there, too. Old. I had some hard conversations with students and parents, and I left school yesterday feeling old. Frustrated. Prayerful. Mindful. All of those things. Heavy.
Thankfully, last night, errr, this morning, I was only woken up once from the baby and was able to get some more sleep than has been my usual of late. And well, today I made a difference. I prayed the entire way to school, which is only a two mile commute, but I prayed that I would have God’s wisdom, that I could make headway. I prayed for eyes to be opened, and especially mine if there was something I wasn’t seeing. I can tell you, now, those prayers weren’t in vain.
We started today with a meeting. Some people in the South like to call it a “come to Jesus meeting” and well, we didn’t pray and I didn’t perform any miracles, but I admitted to my twenty plus students how sad it made me feel that after teaching kindness for a whole year, we were still saying awful things to one another. I asked them to please be more aware of what they said and how they were treating each other. I asked them to talk about what was bothering them and if they weren’t okay with telling the whole group, to write it down for me so we could work on it.
Three minutes later, I had my first customer. Long-held resentment towards another student. We talked it through and student was ready to share with other student. They talked, I mediated, some forgiveness happened and two lighter students were in my classroom. Then there was the quiet girl with sad eyes. According to her, there was “nothing” wrong, but I had to persist. I didn’t really know how I was going to persist, but I just did. I used stuffed animals as puppets, waited, listened, and two more students were lighter through mediation. But wait, something still is wrong with the quiet girl. She’s looking at me with anger in her eyes and I can’t fathom what I did. Turns out she hates school? Hmmm……more persistence, more listening, and a letter she writes to a family member explaining why she’s so angry. She didn’t want me to read it so I didn’t. She didn’t want me to call her mom, so I didn’t. We’ll talk tomorrow, but quiet girl, she dealt with some demons today and left school feeling lighter.
And there’s more of course. One belligerent student demanded why we were still learning! They had taken their tests, so why?! I thought about writing him up for the ugly way he was talking to me, but then I decided to just listen to the frustration. Student didn’t think making board games about American History was much fun, but came up with another assignment that inspired him that he was willing to share with rest of class. After making an agreement and setting up expectations, he left a little bit lighter today, too.
One student was full of nervous energy. She was about to sing the song she had written to the entire grade level for the talent show tryouts. I listened to her and was amazed and a bit teary-eyed. She asked me if she sang well, “Well?,” I asked, “You sound beautiful.” She said that was all she needed to give her the bit of confidence she needed to perform.
And I made a difference today. I’m still praying for my quiet one, praying she gets the guts to read her letter out loud and that it’s received with open arms because I know this could make or break trust from here on out, so I’m praying she is seen by the one she loves most. Praying she is heard.
I’m going to keep on praying I hear them, too. It’s easy to plan a year around kindness, but finding the fruit is a challenge. We don’t live in a kind world. It’s all sorts of messy. As most of the year is behind us with just a smattering of days left, these are my thoughts. It’s kindness to see the eyes filled with pain and refusing to go further until it is acknowledged. It’s kindness to see through the frustrated child and make a plan that fits their mold instead of the other way around. It’s kindness to keep giving new chances for success and help students deal with the hurts they just don’t know how to let go of on their own. It’s kindness to listen- to stop and listen, and give a genuine compliment to a student looking for support.
My prayers were answered. It was my eyes that were opened today.
So…I’m not counting down anymore. For the few days left that I have with these precious young people, I’m going to keep being someone they can count on.