Yes. Apparently, that’s the idea I planted in the heads of the new teachers at lunch last week.
Let me clarify: I don’t have any biological children, teenage or otherwise. I also don’t have any sort of children that live with me – unless you count the furry, four-legged kind. But at school, it’s a totally different story.
You see, over the past 4 years (this will be my fifth, yikes!), I’ve had four “sons.” Kids who needed more than the regular dedication and love that I pass out to all of my students, each for his own reason. For confidentiality reasons, I’ll call pretend that they’re named Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael.
They are neither green nor mutant, but it’ll work.
My first son, Leonardo, is a kid who would come to school smelling like smoke in the winter, because his house didn’t have any heat and so they stood around a trash can bonfire to keep warm at night. He also didn’t live in the district, which I of course didn’t tell anyone about, and so when he needed tutoring, I got permission to drive him home so he wouldn’t have to walk for 2 hours back to the PG. His mom was awesome, but she just didn’t have the time to be there for him like she wanted to be, so we teamed up.
My second and third sons might as well have been actual brothers as much as they hung around one another. Still do, even though they’re in high school, believe it or not. Michaelangelo and Donatello spent 2 years getting into all sorts of trouble together, and some on their own. But by the third year, somehow, I had managed to get them reigned in enough that neither of them got arrested. Michaelangelo even became a member of my yearbook staff and became the best staff member I’ve had to this day. He could design, he followed every single one of my instructions, and he spent half the time trying to tirelessly explain to my girls how to make their own pages better. But Donatello, he’s the one who was my kid more than any of the others. He was such a little punk, to the point that he occasionally wasn’t welcome in his own house. So he started coming to me for the unconditional love and acceptance with a heavy dose of “what were you thinking, young man?” that he wasn’t getting at home. When these two kids left, I wept. Not just teared up, not cried, I full-body wept, like, heaving sobs. So did Donatello, even though I shouldn’t admit that, it’ll damage his rep. These kids felt so much like family that it made me sick to think I wouldn’t be there for them anymore.
But my fourth son is still at school with me. In fact, my fourth son was in my first class, first period, my first year teaching. So yes, he, too, is starting his fifth year at our school. It’s this kiddo that I was talking about when I briefly – but thoroughly – confused my new coworkers. I’m so used to referring to this student – who I supply with countless numbers of pencils, binders, and folders throughout the year in addition to watching his league baseball games in the spring – as my “son” to my coworkers that I didn’t think twice about saying, “Oh, yeah, well my son, who’s been here since I started, is 15, and I’m determined that he’s going to go to high school this year…”
I caught the super-confused looks like 2 seconds later and realized that they were probably trying to figure out if I had just admitted to getting knocked up at 10 years old.
I was highly amused. And immediately corrected them, of course.
But in all honesty, these guys are very much like my children. I worry about them, I make sure that they have what they need for school, I listen to their problems, tell them they’re too young to do half the things that they do, and help them with everything that I possibly can. No, I didn’t raise them from a small little squirmy thing, and I’ll never be able to claim that, but my concern for them is that of a family member. An older sister maybe, or an aunt. The cool one, clearly.
At convocation this year, we had an excellent speaker. Even though I still think it’s a huge waste of time and money, I almost didn’t mind it he was so good. At one point, he whipped out this poster of all the stuff that they’ve added to the curriculum without expanding the regular school year. He reads down the list, and then says, “Does this say ‘teach my student?’ No! It says ‘raise my child!‘”
And that’s the truth. That’s why I love teaching. You get all these kids, and some may not need to be raised, they just need to be taught. So you teach them. But in the same classroom, there are kids who do need to be raised. Not because they have bad parents, but maybe because they refuse to listen to those parents, or they don’t get to see their parents because they’re killing themselves to provide food and clothes for their family. They need more than just grammar lessons.
So it comes to us to teach them not just how to read and write, but how to be people. And that’s where I thrive. It’s why I cannot wait to see my students again Monday morning, even though my job is a huge beat-down thanks to state laws and funding cuts and testing and all the other hurdles we face. It’s why I spent hours upon hours the past 2 weeks totally redoing my classroom to get it ready for them to walk into next year.
I think it turned out nice. ANd you can’t even see the back of the room, or my adorbs teal curtains because the sun is too bright.
Let’s do this, guys. I’m ready to find some new “sons” and “daughters” to confuse people with next year. 🙂