“Policy matters but the humanity of a school matters a lot more.”
As I travel home from what was a wonderful Core Advocate Convening, the quote above from Jason Zimba continues to swirl in my head. In the midst of dealing with a tumultuous legislative session and the final push of learning before the end of the school year our school and community has mourned the tragic loss of one of our precious former students. Like many teachers in my building memories flooded back of the face and personality that once occupied a desk in room 406. The question has continued to swirl in my head…what do I really remember about kids?
I can’t tell you today what many of my students scored on their math K-Prep test the year they took it. I may be able to name a couple of kids who knocked it out of the park with their growth on the MAP assessment but for the most part those numbers leave my head quickly once the window is over. I don’t have a strong recollection of who was the outstanding math student for any of the 12 awards assemblies I have attended since I started teaching. Part of it I am sure is the fact that I have an absolutely terrible memory but the other part is deeper than that. I remember lots of things about all the children I have had an honor to teach but the things I remember are way more than test scores, student voice results, and proficiency ratings.
I remember the class of students that used to be able to get me so off track and tickled with their witty comments that I’d have to turn around to the board so I could stop laughing to get things back on track.
I remember the year we had a penny war to donate money to the local animal shelter and the kids bringing in so many pennies that we had to buy a coin counter to help with the crazy amounts of change we were dealing with…we haven’t been allowed to do a penny war since!
I remember the 52 students that I got to spend a year teaching with Joe Payne. For 177 days we caught lightning in a bottle and my teaching career and philosophy was forever changed. I remember how those kids believed in us just as much as we believed in them.
I remember the year we had our first team fall festival as a incentive for the kids and the little girl that bobbed for more than a dozen apples and left with soaking wet hair and clothes (we didn’t bob for apples the next year!)
I remember the group of kids who after doing the Mathalicious lesson “Big Foot Conspiracy” asked me if we could investigate if my clothes should cost less than most people because I’m so short. And the student who got mad at me and said I was too mean and too short to be a teacher.
I remember going to cheer on the sports teams, academic teams, and clubs so that all my kids know I care and see who they are outside of my classroom. I remember making posters to cheer on our kids in tournaments and championships. I remember the excited hugs when they brought a trophy home and the heartbreak on their faces when they came up short.
I remember the little boy who was crying in my room on his birthday and the teammates who decided to run to Kroger to get him a birthday cake fast. I remember the lady at Kroger who was sweet enough to put is name in it fast. I will always remember walking into his last hour class with the candles lit singing happy birthday and him crying again and explaining that it was the first birthday party he had ever had.
I remember the student who brought me a teddy bear from her collection for my birthday one year. It still sits on a shelf in my classroom and although the little girl changed districts I will always remember her name when I look at it.
I remember the little boy whom after seeing my hair curly and not straightened one day said “Man Ms. Powers I do not like your hair that way it looks terrible.”
I remember the little girl that came in every Monday and Wednesday for extra math help and worked so hard to catch up to her peers. A much I told her and her family not to, she rarely came empty handed and loved bringing me beautiful flowers from her mom’s garden and my favorite the occasional sweet tea.
I remember the student who wrote on her weekly reflection that her week was awesome because she got to see her dad in prison. I remember being a little kinder and gentler the next time she missed an assignment or another day of school due to family circumstances.
I remember the student whom some colleagues and I sent home a backpack of food for Thanksgiving break because we knew they didn’t have enough at home. He returned Monday morning and proudly pronounced that the beef jerky, fruit snacks and peanut butter crackers we sent home were the best Thanksgiving dinner they had ever had.
I remember the students who lost parents while they were in my class and trying to give them some sense of normalcy when they returned. I remembered hearing one particular student tell a friend that sometimes she felt like she could feel her dad right beside her and I remember my heart breaking a little for how her young life had changed forever.
I remember the heartbreak I feel when you get word that a former student has passed away. I remember the seats they filled in my class, their personalities, and the fun they had when we gave them time to just be kids. I remember meeting their parents and getting their emails to check in to see how their child was progressing. I remember having the honor to spend 177 days with someone so special.
I have reflected a lot in the past two weeks about the things I do remember about my students. I have went to bed many nights in the last two weeks wondering if I do enough. Do I have fun with them enough? Do I show them how I love them enough? Do I praise them enough? Do I acknowledge all the things that make them special enough? Will I ever be able to remember enough?