Last Friday, a student (we’ll call him Barry) came into my 6th hour creative writing class, gave a big sigh [of relief], and said, “Mrs. Meidell, are we your happy hour?”
I laughed and replied back with, “Why? Is this YOUR happy hour?”
He thought for a second, then said, “Yeah. I’d say that it is.”
“Well that makes me happy, Barry. Especially since you went on and on at the beginning of the tri how much you hated writing and how you’re only in here cuz your mom made you take the class. And yes, you could say that this is my ‘happy hour.'”
Then, as if to backtrack based on what I’d just said, he replied, “I mean, this class is better than any of the other ones I have to take, so…I guess it’s okay.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve remarked on a student seeming to like something that went against an earlier judgment they’d made–it happened all over the place when I first introduced poetry to my kids. (In fact, when one boy who had been adamantly opposed to poetry was asked how he liked the poem I shared that day, he said, “It was actually pretty cool . . . [pause, backtracking] . . . well, for a poem anyway.”)
I share this because these are the little moments that get me through my day–they are the little jewels of triumph I feel I can take into my heart to protect it against all the not-so-jewel-like things that go on as a teacher. Here are a couple more of the jewels that have happened lately (or that have been on my mind):
*My creative writing class this tri is perfection–almost every single student came into the class highly motivated to improve his/her writing, and they are producing stories like crazy. One little nugget for my heart was when one of my students excitedly told me that he had decided to turn his short story into a trilogy of short stories, which he had spent all weekend outlining (I don’t assign homework for that class). And that same student got perfect 4’s on his last writing assignment in his Language Arts class with me, and I’ll never forget his fists going up in triumph and his wide smile as he pumped his arms in the air, incredulous that he’d finally pulled out a perfect score (a rare feat in my class).
*A group of girls (most of whom have already taken my creative writing class or who are currently in it) have formed their own “Author’s Club” and have asked me to be a mentor for them. I’ve already had several of them share their stories with me online, asking for feedback. I love their enthusiasm for something that I’m so passionate about, too. I love how they value my feedback enough that they’d ask for it. I love how they’ve expressed profuse gratitude that I would take some extra time out of my life to look over their stories (instead of just assuming it’s part of my regular job).
*One of my students (who I didn’t even think really liked me or my class) came up to me a couple weeks ago and said, “Here–these are for you. I meant to give these to you before Easter, but I forgot.” Then she dropped two huge Cadbury caramel eggs into my palm. Seriously, my students spoil me–they’re so sweet. I can’t tell you how many times students have brought me little treats or pictures or books or things they think I’ll like to share with me.
*The past week or so, all three of the Language Arts teachers in the 7th grade (including me) have split our classes into thirds, and then sent one-third of our kids to go to one of the other teachers for end-of-level test prep. I have to smile inside when my kids get so excited when it’s their turn to stay with me (and I secretly smile when they say how relieved they are to be back in my class after being with the other teachers). Maybe it’s just because they’re most comfortable with me, but it still feels nice that not every single student is cheering because they get a different teacher for a few days.
*I’ve had many students say to me over the last several weeks that they’re glad I’m not as “scary” or “mean” as some of their teachers. One new girl (who I simply adore) even told me that I’m the nicest teacher she’s ever known. Melts my heart.
*Right by my desk, I have hung up a picture a student drew me of two eyes brightly looking out at the world. She gave it to me right when the term was about to end (and subsequently, one of the classes she had with me), and she wrote across the top, “Mrs. Meidell, you taught me how to be creative with words. I thank you so much. I wish this term would never end.” Seriously, I almost tear up every time I read it.
*I recently acquired a new transfer student who comes with a long record of behavior problems. She’s got a pretty tough exterior and gives off a vibe that she kind of hates school and teachers in general, but the other day, while passing my class with a new friend she’d made, she said, “Look! There’s my favorite teacher!” Even though she probably wouldn’t say that if she had me for Language Arts instead of Creative Writing, it still made my day.
*Every Monday, I have a student in my 2nd hour who excitedly comes into class to tell me all about his weekend and to ask how mine went. Even though it’s such a small thing, I really do enjoy how much he enjoys telling me about what’s been going on in his life (and that he actually cares enough to ask what’s going on in mine).
*I’ve had this girl all year long in my LA class that used to sluff school almost every single day (by the middle of first trimester, she’d already missed like 32 days). After getting into trouble for it, she was forced to start coming to school every day, but she made it clear by her attitude much of the time that she hated school, that she wanted nothing to do with you, and that her aura was saying “stay away from me.” Well, I had her last trimester in a very small class where I was able to really help her individually a lot of the time and really start to get to know her, and it’s been so fun to watch her walls come down. Today, she’s like a different girl for me–she comes early to class, she says hi to me, she tells me about the books she’s reading…it’s amazing. I consider her my own little miracle.
Looks like after all that reflecting, I’m finally ready to take on another week of teaching.
Bring it on.