Remember how naive I was a few months ago to think having a student teacher would free up some of my time? I'm busier than ever before, hence the hiatus from writing here on the blog. In an effort to keep myself from going crazy while not teaching classes, I somehow ended up piling on more work to fill my days at school. At this point I'm counting down the days until I take my classroom back so I can rest a little from other obligations!
One major thing occupying my time right now is that I was chosen for my district's TLC grant-writing committee. Imagine that: English teacher was nominated when writing's involved! The Iowa TLC (Teacher Leadership Compensation) grant provides funds for school districts that create a system for at least 25% of the teaching staff to take on teacher-leader positions within the district. Teachers who take on these roles are compensated with salary increases based on the specific role. This process has only just started for us, so I'll write more about it later.
We had a TLC planning meeting with an AEA rep (oh, teaching, and your endless acronyms!) yesterday at a neighboring school district that's also starting their grant work. As we were leaving, a familiar girl appeared next to my principal, crying. It was one of my former students, a girl who was only in our district last year as an 8th grader. She was a sweet girl, and had spent years in foster care. I had her as both a student and a track athlete, and she developed so many skills over the school year.
The thing that saddens me the most about my job is how many kids I lose track of once they leave my classroom. I think it must be hard for every teacher to think of all those relationships we've created over the years, and how they all eventually move on. I rarely know what happens to any of them after 8th grade unless they make the effort to seek me out and keep in touch. I know it's important for kids to move on. The goal is to create independent, successful (future) adults, and part of that is knowing that they don't need me anymore once they reach a certain point on that path.
I was surprised to see this freshman girl sobbing in a completely different school district, when I didn't know she'd left ours in the first place.
I did the only thing I could think of. I hugged her tight and told her that I didn't know what happened (assuming the only reason she'd be elsewhere is that she'd been removed from her foster home for some reason) but that I knew she was a strong girl and that she would be okay. I told her she knew where to find me if she ever needed me, and then I had to say goodbye while she stood there in tears.
I spent most of the car ride home feeling like an idiot. Why couldn't I think of something better to say? What could I have done? Why didn't I know something had happened to her? Did I fail her in some way by not being able to comfort her?
And then I moved on, because that's what teachers have to do. There are always more students who need us.
I opened up my email this afternoon to find a message from that girl. She told me how great it was to see me, how she appreciated that I told her she was strong. She quoted Ray Bradbury from work we'd done in my class last year, and mentioned that she's still out for track at her new school, and how someday she'd really love to run in a 5k with me again. She thanked me.
I was there for her when she needed me at that small moment in time. I didn't fail her. My words were enough.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.