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Change in the Classroom

It’s been an interesting two weeks.

The new semester began the second week of February, which ultimately meant the conclusion of my first semester poetry class. That class was special. It became a family. Before Winter Break, we did a “secret snowflake poetry exchange” where EVERY SINGLE STUDENT wrote a poem for another classmate. My seniors wrote poems to freshmen, bestowing their knowledge and letting them know how beautiful they were, inside and out. My freshmen wrote poems back, thanking them for making them feel valued in the shark tank known as high school. We went on a field trip. We grew as a family. Hearts were stomped on, mended, broken, and held gingerly in our class. This group of students was an amazing group that I’ll probably only have once in a lifetime.

It’s been tough to accept the loss of this class while still trying to be open minded to my second semester poetry class.

This group isn’t my first semester class. Then again, neither was my first semester class 2 weeks into the school year.

With the combination of snow days, long weekends, and a rotating block schedule, I have only seen this class a few times. Students are still in the add/drop period for their second semester courses, and the class roster changes on the daily. It’s tough to build a relationship with inconsistency, especially when the schedule is filled with uncertainty.

Yesterday was a rough one. For whatever reason, the class was in a special state of excitement over it being Friday. They just came from lunch. Half the class walked in 10 minutes late. Hormones were raging and drama was flying. I gave up trying to share notes on breaking down poetry, and instead dispersed a handout with explanations of figurative language on them. I told the class they were having a free write where they could write about anything– yes, anything— as long as they incorporated 5 of the 8 types of figurative language into their poems.

Then, I broke out the poetry ball.

The poetry ball is a giant plastic toy capsule, like the ones you find in a vending machine with dinky toys, only this one is the size of a cantaloupe. It’s filled with different writing topics my students have written down, ranging from “iphone addiction” to “family members in jail.”

This class hadn’t used the poetry ball yet.

Oddly enough, having the freedom to write whatever they wanted about topics created by people their own age got every single student to be quiet and write. Some even groaned when I made them stop writing so we could put the room back together. (I try to lead my poetry class in a circle.) They wrote beautifully. Even the most difficult of students–students I had warned were one step away from getting a phone call home– wrote lines upon lines of beauty.

They have promise.

As long as I remember to open my heart to their promise and lives, we can have promise together.

Breaking up sucks.

Today, I broke up with my students.

A few weeks ago, my supervisor asked me to take over a college-level writing course when another teacher leaves to teach abroad in the new year.  The catch is that I’ll be trading two of my periods for the two periods of this class.

I had to wait for different approvals to go through, and for different red tape to be crossed, but, at the end of last week, the change became officially approved.

I knew it was coming, but that didn’t stop me from crying in my car the entire commute home.

You see, I genuinely love my kids this year. There’s not a single one I can imagine my school year without, and to have it confirmed that I’ll be losing 52 students (two periods worth) genuinely hurts.

I also love these kids enough to know that this transition is going to suck for the both of us. It will work out in the end, but, in a district where so many of the kids have dependency issues and emotional reliances on their teachers and adult role models, the kids are going to have a tough time with the news. I knew they needed to know ASAP, so I drafted a letter to their parents and guardians, and made today Doomsday.

I spent an unreasonable chunk of time Googling “how to tell your students you’re leaving” this weekend as well. If you ever have the misfortune of Googling this, this post and this post are helpful. Nothing else is. These are geared towards youth pastors, but I found them to be true for urban ed teachers.

Google apparently only thinks teachers tell their students when they're leaving or pregnant.

Google apparently only thinks teachers tell their students when they’re leaving or pregnant.

In my first class, I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t hide my nerves, and, when I told them that my supervisor had asked me to teach another class in the new year, they started crying. Crying. I didn’t know what to expect, except maybe irrational teenager screaming and arguing, but I didn’t expect crying. That made ME cry. I jokingly yelled at them for making me cry, and one student sniffled and said, “But Miss. You care about us!”

Then, the next class cried too. I cried more. We all cried. Then laughed. Then cried. Then they wrote a petition, and I told them they were acting like immature teenagers, and they laughed and rolled their eyes at me, and then we laugh/cried some more.

Today was emotional.

You see, I do care about my students. As I told them today, whether it be in January when they get a new teacher, or whether it be 20-something years from now when I hopefully have teenagers of my own, my kids will always be my kids. Nothing changes that for a teacher, ever.

I’m currently an emotional wreck, as emails of support and sadness have been pouring in from parents and guardians tonight. I’m glad I wrote a letter to them, as it shows the level of respect and love I still have for both them and their students. I’m just overwhelmed by the respect and love they’re giving back to me.

Breaking up with students sucks.