I teach math but really, I teach middle schoolers. Math is my method, it's just the way things happened. I kind of like having a dry subject because I don't get lost in the details like I might with a literature course. Instead, I know when I walk into a 45 minute class whether I have time to be just a math teacher or if there is some wiggle room for some life.
There is almost always a little wiggle room for some life. I don't ramble on, I don't talk about random stuff, I'm not the sort of teacher who gets off track and loses control of the conversation (now, sometimes I lose control of the conversation but it's when I know I can, so I'm still really in control).
My 8th grade class this past year always had a little bit of wiggle room. There were only 13 students in that class and for the most part they didn't struggle too much with the concepts. So there were moments when I got to say something. Or listen to something. In fact, there were a few times when that class was obviously the one moment of the day when they felt safe enough to say something really important. I take that role very seriously--a couple of times I had to say "I'm going to have to say something to the principal about that." Which is hard, believe me, when kids trust you and then you have flag something as important enough to pass up the chain of command. But when it happened, and it was only a few times, I could see the relief on their faces. They wanted someone to know. And it kept me ethical and above-board and obvious. They knew what to expect from me.
One day I mentioned something about friendship, about something hard but not weird or strange that was going on in my life. Just that it was hard to be an adult sometimes.
"You mean things don't get easier after school?" one of the boys, one of my absolute favorite students in that class, asked, not joking around.
"It never gets easier," I shook my head. "You'd think that adulthood, that you'd figure it out, that it would make sense, your brain matures and all that. But it doesn't. The stakes just get higher."
I looked out the window at the soccer field, my everyday view. That and the concession stand bathrooms.
"So when my mom says we should enjoy this time, she means it?" he asked, suspicious.
"Yes, it's like, right now it's a black and white TV, and when you're an adult it's in color. Just more real" I summed up. And my time was up. I needed to get back to math. There would more days.
Math is always easy to get back to.