Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Simply a Good Day

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The tunnel leading down into an old World War II bunker in Curtis's hometown. 
It all started in the hallway.

I was standing outside my door, watching the students pass between periods: classroom-locker-chat-locker-classroom. Then a student walked up to me and asked me a question: Can I chew gum in your class?

Now this answer has changed in the past year. At my last school, gum was not allowed. That's not to say that the stealth teenagers didn't try to sneak it every opportunity they got, it's just that when I heard it, saw it, smelled it, I asked them to spit it out.

At this school, gum is up to the discretion of the the teacher. Knowing that trying to outlaw gum in a school where my students likely chew in every other room was an uphill battle, I told the students they could chew as much as they wanted--until it became a distraction. If I saw it or heard it, it was gone.

And that's what I reminded this student, slightly surprised that he still didn't know the policy after our five months together. On the other hand, that fits this student. He's not very great at paying attention, and doesn't often notice details. He's not the most mature, and capitalizes on every possible opportunity to elicit a laugh. As a result, he's gotten in his fair share of trouble.

If there were a mature student in the 8th grade, it wouldn't be him.

Despite all of these realities, I humored him when he pulled out a pack of gum and I saw it was Trident Layers--one of my personal favorites.
"That's a good pack of gum," I commented to him as we stood together in the hallway.
Without missing a beat, he quickly replied, "You want some?" as if I was one of his buddies, and we were sharing a bag of chips.
"Thanks for the offer" I told him "But I don't like to chew gum when I'm talking in front of everyone." He smiled and nodded hid head, and headed back into the classroom while I corraled the stragglers into the classroom before the bell.

Toward the end of the period, when I finally made it back to my desk, I found a piece of gum neatly placed in the middle of my computer keyboard. It was a small gift, stealthily placed, and never mentioned.

And it made my day.

There are a lot of up and down moments in teaching, almost like I am plucking petals off a daisy daily. The petals proclaim "they love me; they love me not" depending on how much they love my lesson, hate the assignment, are getting along with their friends, or parents or relatives. I deal with a lot of variables, very few of which I have any control over. I care a lot for my students, but I am rarely convinced they have any idea.

One piece of gum? A token, a gift, a small act that made the day a little brighter.

I'll take it--any day.

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