This has been a strong year. A strong year for me and for who I am, as an individual. I moved into my own apartment. I was given a kitten that needed a home, my fish tank grew, and I had real adult insurance on a truck- and dental.
I was a teacher: a substitute, a middle school teacher, a special education middle school teacher, a 6th grade special education support facilitator in the general education setting. I fostered relationships, collected data, authored reports, and somehow impacted the lives of hundreds of children. Children I will probably never see again. These kids grew like weeds and became preteens in front of my eyes. Their intelligence and work ethic wavered and settled and blossomed and shrunk. Their love/hatred of me fluctuated just the same.
But, my students are strong.
My students are behavior problems. My students are slow learners and need extra attention, time, and practice. My students can’t sit still, and my students don’t understand the worldly references you make to them. My students go to a Title 1 Middle School. My students are strong. My students can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner here at school, and many do. My students care for themselves and others to make sure everyone has food and is safe. My students are strong. My students have parents in jail. My students have horrific back stories and medical diagnoses. My students will fight and swear and lash out. My students are strong. My students will respect you. My students will spit on you. My students will say they hate you. My students will defend you. My students are strong. My students want the world and know it’s not likely to be theirs. My students lack goals and drive. My students are strong. My students will steal from you. My students will fall asleep in class. My students will disrespect you. My students are strong. My students will hug you. My students will make sure you’re okay if you’ve been out sick. My students will assume you’ve quit if you’re out for more than one day. My students are strong. My students have no consistency in life. My students work. My students will lie to your face. My students are strong. My students try their hardest. My students make gains- and losses. My students improve their speaking, reading, and writing. My students do basic function math. My students are strong. My students show up daily. My students skip for weeks. My students will sit through in school suspension day after day. My students are strong. My students cry. My students are hungry. My students have dirty and ripped clothes. My students have brand new phones, shoes, and haircuts. My students are strong. My students will fuck you up. My students love. My students carry on.
MY STUDENTS ARE STRONG.
These children are stronger than I am. I think it’s alright, because I learned from them too. It’s a hard life to live. Any life. Life is hard. It doesn’t matter who has a parent in jail, or food on the table, or their hair freshly done. Everyone is just making it work. Everyone just carries on. I respect these kids. And I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with them. I feel honored to have somehow earned their love and respect.
I miss my past students too. The elementary students in DC, on reading, writing, and speaking. The teenagers in Juvenile Jail, on reading and ethics. The summer camp girls, on science and survival skills. They were all strong too.
I don’t think they’re stronger because I am weak. I am not weak. I am merely at a different point of strength. I am simply not as resilient as some of the children I’ve worked with. Resiliency is the deepest form of strength, and I hope nothing but the most wonderful things for my students. I miss them. I love them. I care for them to this day. Nevertheless, I know they’re fine, because MY STUDENTS ARE STRONG.