This past week, I ended an email to one of my class moms with "I was more human than I like to be." You see after lunch that day, I found out via text message that my grandma, the one who was my babysitter from infancy to 3 or 4, the one I told about my future stepson before my parents, the one that shared my love for chocolate with, had taken her last breath. And while I knew it was coming, I didn't expect to find out then or like that. I laid my head on my kidney shaped table and sobbed. My kids were wonderful, and I haven't heard so many stories of empathy about dogs dying, cats dying, hamsters dying in all my other days teaching combined.
I've had to tell two classes of five year olds there was a baby in my belly. The questions that ensued after the fact are always innocent, but enough to make this conservative girl blush. The second year in a row there was a baby in my belly, my absolute favorite was, "How did you get a baby back in your belly SO fast?!" He had a baby sister the same age as Reagan at home, and I think he really feared his mom was going to get another baby in her belly fast too.
I had to share that my dear assistant had lost her mother with the third class of kindergartners. I always worry that sharing that kind of news with really small children will scare them. I don't want them to be scared that their moms are going to die, and as I told them her mother was really elderly, I still got all teary. My assistant was so close with her mom that my heart literally broke for her. That class was so concerned they made cards to cheer her up. One little boy drew him and Mrs. Hagee on his tractor, because when he felt sad he told me, "nothing is better than a ride around the farm."
The hardest conversation I've ever had to have came my third year teaching. I left a group of 27 fourth graders behind. In 2009 I got married and moved an hour away from my school. It was too hard being a new wife and stepmom. Driving that distance to a pretty demanding school, was just too much. When a second grade opening popped up nearby, I sent in my resume, was called to interview, and was offered the job the same day. I couldn't not take it. It didn't make sense. But as I stood up in front of a class of below grade level reading, free and reduced lunch eating, run down apartment living nine year olds and told them, it didn't make sense to them. I may have cried more that night than I did this week after I got the news of my Nana's death. I can't express how much I love those Ramseur kids. I always tell David if we move back, I want to work there. He thinks I'm crazy. He saw how difficult it was, but there's nothing quite as rewarding as working with kids who NEED you. A lot of my Ramseur babies needed the teachers there to love them.
I hope that it will be quite a while before I have to have another hard conversation with my school kids. Honestly, I really don't like admitting in my professional life I'm human at all. It's really tiring, but I always end up learning as much from the kids as they learn from me. And I have learned that letting the kids know about your life, learning about theirs, building relationships, is what makes a classroom community warm, successful, and inviting. So, while I'm not convinced I ever have quite the right words when I need them, I'm grateful to work in an environment where being human is part of the job, where building relationships is one of the requirements, and having those tough conversations happens only from time to time.