Bittersweet Symphony

I recently finished the school year and posted the following on Facebook. I thought I’d post it here, as well, for those who happen upon my page or found me after I knocked their door.

I have officially completed my 14th year in the classroom. I know I have at least one more semester, and the election will decide the rest. Every year, I have 8th graders that bawl on the last day, and they hug me, and tell me they’ll come visit ALL THE TIME (they never do, and that’s okay). I get notes of gratitude and the general reminder of why I do all the things that I do all year for these kids. Most of the time I don’t cry. I always know I’ll miss my kids, but I don’t usually cry. There’s too much relief that they made it and so did I. 

This year was different. Maybe because if I get elected, I won’t be directing my choir at All-City next year and see all those kids that just got finished with middle school. Maybe because this particular group was more emotional than most and I’m a sympathetic crier. Maybe because among the thank you notes I received, at least three of them mentioned they would have killed themselves without choir and that I saved their lives. Me. I’m no one.

Every year I get notes that make me feel good, and there is always one note that is intense like that. This group was different. There was more drama, more “life changing” events, and some actually life-changing events. These kids had to make diagrams in order to explain their drama to an outsider. They put me through my paces, but I’m walking away from this year with more “adopted” children than I’ve ever had before, and many of them I may never see again. There was literally a line of crying kids at the end of the day, waiting to hug me and say goodbye, whispering thank yous in my ears and refusing to let me hug the next person because they will never be done.

People wonder why I live and breathe my job. Why, when I get frustrated, can I not adopt the attitude that will allow me to “punch in and out” without thinking about my job outside contract hours. To those people, I remind you that this is not just a job. This is life, and I’m living it.

I filled out a candidate survey today that asked me questions about how I would improve the lives of children if I get elected. Simply put, I would change all of the things within my power to change that haven’t been within my power as a teacher – all of the things that make my heart hurt, that make certain kids live in my heart every night when I go to sleep.

My kids have parents in prison, parents with mental illness, parents that were, as I’ve said so often, one emergency away from homelessness, and that emergency just happened. I have kids who have to sacrifice, as Wil Wheaton put it, “what are supposed to be the best years” of their lives because they have to watch their younger siblings so their parents can work three jobs to equal one income.

There are so many things wrong with this. I know I don’t have a magic wand and I can only accomplish what my peers in the legislature might help me to accomplish, but if elected, I will at least be in a better position to make those things happen. At least at the end of the day, I can look people in the eye and say I truly did everything I could.

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