On Monday one of my sixth graders walked in during 2nd period. I was teaching 8th grade. I had marked her absent that morning, and here she was with her backpack and lunch bag. I work hard to not call attention to people who walk in and out of my room while I'm teaching--6th graders often forget their materials and sneak in to grab the dictionary or notebook they've forgotten. If I engaged each of them, teaching would never happen. So I let her get her things together and kept on with what I was doing with the hooligans assigned to my class.
(I say hooligan in the warmest way).
There was only a bit left to 2nd period, and I noticed that she stood in the back by my lockers, just standing still. I told her she could go on to class, that it was fine to be late. Then I went back to my job.
When the bell rang, I noticed she was still standing there. I urged her to just head on to her next class, and then I went out into the hall to watch students (and hooligans) move between rooms.
When I came back in again to begin teaching 7th grade, there she was.
"You need to head on to class," I said, more firmly.
She did. Twenty minutes later the nurse was at my door to gather her things because she was going home. I figured that she'd been ill that morning, thought she could do it, but realized it was a mistake. Been there, done that.
Or maybe she was frozen in fear.
I talked to a friend about it, and she said, "why not just ask her?" I have learned to do this in the last year or so. If I want an answer, ask the right question. I got good at this last spring with my homeroom. They kept religion journals and this was a safe way to communicate with me. And oh did they communicate.
But I was afraid to ask her. Not because of her answer, not because it was scary to talk to 12 year old people, not because of any of that.
I'm afraid of falling in love with my homeroom this year. Like I did last year. Like I did with the current sophomore class. Like I do.
I am leaving. I cannot financially afford to stay here longer than one more year after this current one. Then I will have two girls in private high school and every year is like buying a used car, and that year will be two cars. Plus I have a girl who will need an actual car. I teach in a situation that allows my young children to attend Catholic grade school for free--but high school isn't included in the deal. So as London graduates, I lose her grade school benefit and need cash on hand to get her freshman year done. I can't stay much longer.
In fact, I was going to leave this year. I started looking. I got my high school certification.
And then I fell in love with my homeroom. With three of them specifically. And I watched them fall for me too and I needed to see this out. I told my boss, who understands that I will eventually leave her, that my work wasn't done here yet. It isn't. I need to help bring a couple of these folks to fruition.
So I stayed and all I can do is assume the universe is unfolding as it should and I will find the job I need when I need it.
When I told my brother why I was staying, he said, quite astutely like he does, "Aren't you just going to get attached to the next class of kids? Like, each year?"
And since he was right, I started thinking about how to be everything I needed to be without letting my heart open. How to make 6th grade right for these very timid young people without letting them affect me at all.
And last night talking it over, I knew I couldn't. I can't be here for my older kids and not for my new ones. I either have to shut it down entirely and punch a clock and be a terrible person for a year and walk away unhappy and disappointed and disappointing, or I need to be who I am.
So this morning I told my little scared 6th grade student to just think for a few days: how can I make it easier? And we would talk again soon.
I need to just be brave and be who I am.
And know that it's going to hurt like hell when I leave.
Like it always does when I do it right.