Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Teacher's Memories

I had something unusual happen this week which I didn't mention in Love Thursday.  I think because it warranted a post all its own.  I was contacted on facebook by a mother of a boy I had in my last class in Maryland.  That was the last class I taught full-time.  I think of those kids often.  It was such a fun class.  I had 4th and 5th graders in what they called a combination class.  This was the hated assignment, but I asked for it.  I loved mixing ages in a classroom.  Was it more work?  Yes, but the challenge kept me energized everyday.  This class in particular had some really great personalities.  They all got along well, and adapted well to my unusual methods of teaching.  The parents were also great.

This school was located in the suburbs of D.C., in Silver Spring, MD.  I did not live in the community and had to drive 30 minutes one way every day.  It was a quiet, mixed neighborhood.  My first year at this school was quite a culture shock.  From not being able to always understand the students' and other teachers' accents, to them not understanding mine.  From the level of professionalism of the teachers to the omni presence in the classroom of the principal.  From the intensity of the parents to the loneliness that filled me.  It was a hard year.  On top of all of that, I was sick.  I had been in the hospital just one week prior to being interviewed and hired to teach.  I was hired later so I started from behind, and of all things was hired to teach math!  I hated teaching math, but knew I had to take the job.  I knew many people who had been trying to get hired for years, and it only took me 1 interview.  Luckily the principal assigned a teacher's aide to me, Meg Flanders.  Had she not been there, I would not have made it through that first year, truly.  She translated for me and the kids, she graded the mounds and mounds of paper that was generated by the Montgomery county math program, she helped me fit in and make friends with the teachers and aides.  She was my lifesaver that year.

The next year I set out on my own and taught a 3rd and 4th grade class.  Many of the students I already knew from teaching them math, so the transition was much easier. And then the next year, most of those students stayed with me as I went to 4th and 5th.  It was magical.  I loved being in that classroom watching those faces light up and waiting to hear what new connection they would make.  What a year to end on.  Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end of the year.  It was one of the hardest things I had ever done.  But my husband had a job in North Carolina, and I had a 2nd grader and a 4 yr. old.  I didn't have enough money, nor did I want to hire a nanny to finish out the year in Maryland, so I quit.

On my last day, the kids and parents threw me a party.  We had all become so close, there were many tears.  They had brought different gifts, all of them from the heart and many of which I still have.  The last gift was handed to me by my 5th grade boys.  They had all chipped in and bought me a diamond necklace.  I was touched beyond words.  I have a photo a mom snapped, with tears streaming down my face and shock on my features.  I had teased the boys that the way to a woman's heart was diamonds, and did they listen.  Those boys' faces are all etched on my heart.  I will never forget them.

And now, one of them is in touch with me.  Well, his mom is.  He is getting married and has 2 small children.  Wow.  Time keeps marching by...they are no longer boys.  They are men.  I know they are kind, good men, because that day, ten years ago, I saw a glimpse of each of their hearts and all I saw was gold.

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