I was fascinated today by what words V clearly thought were inappropriate and which ones he didn’t think twice about.
I told him my grandmother died since I saw him last week. He responded, “Damn, damn, damn. I KNEW you were going to say that! Was she sick?”
He described a pro wrestling fight he’d seen. “It’s in the…sorry…[whispers] Hell in a Cell. [blushing] I’m sorry! That’s the name of it!”
Who knows how kids pick up their ideas of what’s acceptable language and what’s not?
Last week in my mentoring visit we had to coax V to play Crazy 8s with us and then I had to give him a LOT of support as we played (including peeking at his cards so I could double-check his moves). This week it was just me and V in the library, and instead of reading a biography – his hands-down favorite activity – he asked if I brought Crazy 8s and if we could play. I dealt the cards, we played…and it went really smoothly. I never had to check his hand, he handled it gracefully when he almost won but then I changed the color, and he handled it gracefully many turns later when I ended up winning.
Not only have we never played Crazy 8s so well, we’ve never played any game so well. It was like he grew a whole year in just the last week – suddenly able to remember and follow the rules, make strategic choices, and be a good sport. I have no idea what caused the big change, but I’m incredibly proud of him.
I saw one of my former first graders, now in 5th grade(!) this morning. She came over and wrapped her arms around me in a side hug. “So,” I said, looking down at her, “when I talked to you in June you predicted you’d spend the summer on the computer and text messaging. Is that what you ended up doing?”
“Pretty much,” she said.
Over the course of my last year of mentoring, another of my former students slowly wormed her way into our sessions. She started by lobbying – hard – for one, just one, meeting in December. I talked with her teacher and with my original student and finally agreed. Every week after that she’d see me in the lobby and ask “can I come with you today?” until I finally agreed to a second session, then a third…and before I knew it she was joining us every other week. It worked out better than I expected. She’s gregarious and highly social, but she’s never seemed to mind much how “off” my other student is. She lets him be him while still (mostly) politely standing her ground if he’s truly out of bounds socially.
Last week, my first week back this school year, she started on the lobbying again as soon as she saw me. I said that since her teacher had no idea I was even there, we’d have to wait until this week, at least, so I could see if it was okay.
This week, having gotten permission from both her teacher and my other student, I was looking forward to telling her that she could join us. Spying me in the lobby she made a beeline for me: “Can I come with you today?” Then, without even waiting for my response, she continued, “But you said you’d talk to my teacher! You said–”
I held up my hand to cut her off. “Whoa! Want to let me talk? I was about to say that I talked to your teacher and you can come with us today.”
She had the good grace to smile sheepishly.
We spent a lot of the time together playing Crazy 8s with the $1 deck I got at Target. She was awesome at it – beat me multiple times, using actual strategy. She kept protesting that I wasn’t supposed to look at the other student’s cards though, and I had to keep shushing her because there’s no way he could play the game without the support I can give him from peeking. I like that having her with us means that he’s willing to try the game – when he played just with me last year he threw the cards down in frustration and said the game was stupid, but if she and I are playing, he wants to give it a try.
So I’ll be taking her every other week this year. I give her credit – she’s relentless, sure, but it gets her what she wants and needs, and it’s been a positive thing for all of us in the end.
Had my first day back to school mentoring my former student. He was disappointed when the morning announcement didn’t say his class was one that had earned “free seating” in the cafeteria. I said, “so the seats are assigned right now until each class shows they can make good choices?”
He responded, “No, I think they just want to make us miserable.”
The nine-year-old I work with explained to me today why he knows Santa Claus is real:
“I believe in Santa Claus. My mom and dad don’t believe in Santa Claus though. My mom says that when I go to sleep and wake up and there are presents, she leaves the presents. But that’s not possible! How can a mom and dad get presents in the middle of the night? They can’t go to the stores in the middle of the night. The stores are even closed! It doesn’t make sense. So I know Santa must leave the presents.”
I’ve been pretty quiet online this year, largely because there were so many changes in my life, and so many big emotions about those changes, that I didn’t really even know where to begin. But with the changing of the year, it feels like a good time to look back and reflect on the last 12 months.
I spent the first half of my year with an amazing, challenging, intensely emotional group of students who made a lasting mark on my heart. Over our time together, I grew both more comfortable as a teacher and at the same time more unsure of my ability to ever be the teacher I wanted to be, or to gain the emotional distance necessary to make year after year of teaching sustainable. By June I never wanted to say goodbye to my students and couldn’t imagine spending another day with them – or starting all over again with a new group the following year.
All of those conflicting emotions – plus some expert advocacy by my mother – led to a very different second half of the year. In May I interviewed with my father’s boss for a position at the federal contractor he’s worked for since 2002. Two weeks after school ended, I started as a Senior Business Analyst at the company – and it’s been great. My day to day interactions are with the two VPs, the COO, and my father, and the entire leadership team has been shockingly open to my (many, many) ideas, suggestions, and initiatives. I’ve been able to define my scope of responsibilities as we go, taking on projects I find exciting and that make a difference to the company. In early fall, I led a recruitment process that added two new people to our team, making me a supervisor after just four months on the job.
It’s pretty different from teaching.
The new job brought a lot of other new things, including a new car, new apartment, new work wardrobe, new furniture, new commute. I love my little red Prius, with my first-ever vanity plates, and its crazy-good gas mileage makes my marathon commute a little easier to deal with. (Literally, it’s a marathon – 26.2 miles door to door.) After spending all of August with my very patient mom and dad, I moved into a gorgeous one-bedroom apartment in September and spent most of September and October furnishing and stocking it. (It turns out that after 5+ years of downsizing apartments, I had no tables, no dishes, no glasses…)
And running through the entire year, of course, was trapeze. It’s grown from an important hobby that provided me with a sense of community to a defining part of who I am and a huge part of my social life. I spent March through October intensely focused on building my trampoline skills (until my coach ran off to join the circus), and since September my flying has moved forward in leaps and bounds. In the last few months I’ve taken multiple tricks and skills out of safety lines, which means I’m taking more and more responsibility for what I do in the air. And it’s exhilarating. I’ve always been a confident person, but as I’ve progressed in trapeze, I’ve gained a completely different sense of confidence, one that’s rooted both in a better knowledge of my body and what I can do with it, but also in constantly, and successfully, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. When I’m feeling uncertain at work or in a new social situation, there’s something very powerful about remembering, hey, I can do a back 1.25 tuck, drop safely from 23 feet in the air, or grab a return bar and go all the way back to the board. If I can do those things, surely the day-to-day challenges of life are manageable.
All in all, it’s been a very good year, and there’s a lot more to look forward to in the year to come.