I’ve been thinking a lot about what my students have gotten out of this school year. Maybe it’s because year end’s in sight. Or maybe it’s because I’ve had some time to read, think and write. Or maybe it’s because some students are struggling with life and school, and I’m at a loss.
Probably because of all of these reasons, I’ve been thinking about bottom lines. What are students walking out the door holding on to? Are they gonna be ok, taking the next step? Are they ready?
I’ve asked these same kinds of questions about my own children.
While I’m not sure of the answers, this is what I want:
I want them to walk on knowing that they are seen. That the world has space for them and that they are entitled to be there. That they are a part of a community that needs them, and that they need to contribute by doing what they can. That trying is hard, but if they keep trying they will move. That doing well on a test is just that, doing well on a test, nothing more. That what matters is that you come every day and expect something of yourself.
I might forget these ideas in my mission to teach the concepts, the skills, the strategies. I might forget this in my desire to fix, to challenge, to grow.
I might forget that the most unforgettable thing I could give a student is the knowledge that I see them, that I care about them, and that I honor them – what they think and who they are.
I was listening to a podcast with Father Gregory Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles and author of Tattoos on the Heart. While my kiddos aren’t as tough as Luis, nor am I as saintly as Father Boyle, the conversation made me laugh and think about the feelings I have toward my students and how they might think of me.
I said, ‘You know, Luis, I’m proud to know you, and my life is richer because you came into it, and when you were born, the world became a better place, and I’m proud to call you my son. Even though’ — and I don’t know why I decided to add this part — ‘at times, you can really be a huge pain in the ass.’
In response, Luis looked up at me and said, “The feeling’s mutual.”
Maybe I returned him to himself, but there is no doubt that he’s returned me to myself.
If we value our students for who they are and where they are, we are right there beside them.
That is what I hope they walk away with.
This is what I want.
Glad to be back to the slicing world.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life on Tuesdays. Read more slices here.