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Things I never knew about my teachers

Like, they can’t wait for summer. And, they love snow days as much as kids do.

I only know these things because I’m a teacher now. When I was a kid I thought teachers hated snow days. Unh-unh. We wear our pajamas inside out and put salt on our windowsills and spoons under our pillows right along with our kids. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job (most days, anyway), but snow days are a gift. I love them.

I also used to think my teachers hated summer. Not because they adored us, but because some profound teacherly instinct drove them to strap kids to their desks and stuff their brains full of . . . well, stuff. Now I know the truth. I’m thrilled that summer’s coming. Because I love summer. I love not having to race to school before the first bell. I love being able to eat lunch whenever I want. I love going to the beach! And I love knowing that if I am at school and working out some cool new unit, I won’t have to stop just because a bell has rung. I can work hours and hours and nothing will interrupt me.

I also (truth) love sleeping in, occasionally. And having time to work on my latest novel.

But . . .  summer is also, in late April and early May, a terrifying prospect. The last day of school looms. Bad enough that I have to get my fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh graders through their curriculum. That’s okay, really, because if I miss something guess what? I’ll be teaching them again next year. (Or my new colleague will, but at least we can talk about it. Patch the holes, as it were.)

No, what’s scary is those eighth graders, going out into the big wide world of high school. Eek. Have I taught them enough? Are they ready? HAVE I FAILED THEM? Kids think “failing them” mean we put F’s on their report cards. But for me, to fail a student means something different. It means I haven’t given them what I’m supposed to give them, taught them what they need to know, or even, perhaps, I’ve done some damage to their young souls. Because when my eighth graders leave in early June, anything I’ve forgotten to teach them, any harm I’ve done, will be beyond my reach to repair.

So. I haven’t written much here lately because the reality of those graduating eighth graders smacked me in the face a few weeks ago. And of course my panic is making me overload them with work, in hopes that I won’t fail them. I need to calm down. I need to enjoy their last days in middle school, and let them enjoy me. I need to show them that these past three (and in many cases five) years of teaching them and watching them grow up have been, not just the kind of hard work that makes me long for snow days and summer, but an absolute gift. I need to try to bless them the way they’ve blessed me, by letting me be their teacher.

And if that sounds sappy, so be it.

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