I know, generic right? Yes, but it also couldn’t be more true. Now I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who will deny that they love children; however, I have to say that this week I’ve been slightly more aware of just how much love I have for them. And though I’m speaking specifically about the 78 students I have on my rosters each day, this feeling also encompasses the hundreds of other students I pass in the halls on a regular basis, some of whom I’ve taught, others who simply remain excited to wave to me and ask me a series of “Do you know my sister/brother/2nd cousin once removed??” questions.
This week has been a long one (though I feel like that goes without saying when you’re a teacher in May/June) and I’ve had an endless stream of thoughts running through my mind. I’ve felt a bit out of sorts and more than a bit off kilter. But guess who isn’t?? That’s right…the children. Like clockwork, every morning at 7:45 they walk in. The familiar refrain of the “Is it B-day?”/”What was the Spanish homework?”/”Miss Burke, I have a new video to show you” chorus begins. And we’re off…
|Courtesy of 4Moms|
The other day one of those astute scholars surprised even me when he remarked (in a sing-song voice I can only wish to replicate), “Miss Burke, you’re tired today. Did you eat gluten??” (He also stresses the 2nd syllable in the word which is just precious.) His question threw me on so many levels; first, because I hadn’t realized that my tiredness was that apparent; second, because he knew that gluten would cause such an effect in my persona, and third because in the midst of the craziness that is a middle schooler’s brain during exam week, he took the time to notice his teacher and express concern about something that seemed slightly off. Now fortunately he was incorrect- I hadn’t eaten gluten. Just a few too many late nights followed by early mornings coupled with end-of-year craziness between the hours of 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM. However, his observation struck a chord. It was almost like walking around in my own version of It’s A Wonderful Life…only in reverse. I watched as 8th graders for a brief, and I mean BRIEF, moment became nostalgic and emotional about their finals days in grade school. I watched as kindergartners, whom I had met as the tiny 2 and 3-year-old siblings of my 3rd graders, waved excitedly across the courtyard in their tiny caps and gowns. And of course, my current class, whom I met as fresh-faced 5th graders 20 months ago, have grown (some exponentially) into soon-to-be 7th graders. I couldn’t help but pause and think: what would my life be without these children who populate a majority of the hours in my week?
Yes, I’d probably more alert and well-rested…but I also know I’d laugh a lot less. I wouldn’t smile as a one student pleads, “Please give me homework…30 problems! I’ll even do 60! I just need one more grade before report cards!” I wouldn’t chuckle as another responds to a short answer question on his exam with, “Miss Burke, I’ll be honest…I have no idea how to solve this problem. But I do know that Jesus is the answer to all problems in life so I’m going to write that and hope you have mercy on my soul. Like Jesus does.” I wouldn’t shake my head as the following conversation ensued between 3 others at recess before I even had a chance to get a word in edgewise: “Seriously, don’t you know this by now?? Miss Burke won’t answer questions about her personal life until she gets engaged! She says it’s because she wouldn’t want us to know about someone unless they’re going to be around forever…I keep telling her we won’t get attached. Plus we’re the ones she can count on if it doesn’t work! I’ll bring in the ice cream, an Adele CD, we’ll have a good cry, and it will all be fine. Oh! And we can watch a movie. Sleepless in Seattle. Heartbreak fixed.”
|If only this were a Religion test, not Math…|
Yep, and that was all in the past 2 days. Laughter, jokes, and eye rolls aside, I also would never feel as loved as I do. Whether it’s my students or my friends’ children, there is nothing that makes you feel quite as loved as a hug, a smile, or a laugh from a child. Now I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, yes Katie, but where is the allergy help in all this? Well, I’m getting to that. Actually, the connection is twofold. First, every person in this world finds joy and love in different places. Whereas I am fortunate enough to find it in the young people I get to work with every single day, for others it is found elsewhere: in patients, in customers, in conquering a seemingly impossible design project, lab experiment, or computer code. There are so many places to find joy…and when your world has been turned upside down, whether by food allergy or something else, those are the places and the people you need to turn to, rely on, and embrace until you get your feet back on the ground and restore the balance in your world. Second, I think there are a lot of adjectives that get thrown around to describe young people in today’s world. You hear them called lazy, self-centered, technology-obsessed, etc. However, no one seems to focus on the fact that these kids are growing up in a world which hands them challenges unlike anything I ever knew as a pre-teen. Yes, I had to remember my locker combinations, the books I needed, when my tests were, where my homework was, and how to make it to class in those 3 precious minutes of passing time I was granted. But I never had to practice intruder drills, remember where the safe zones were in every classroom to which I traveled, or factor in time to ring a doorbell between wings in my own school building during that 3-minute sprint between classes.
And yet somehow, on top of all that, these kids also manage to say things like, “Miss Burke, can I wash my hands? I ate peanut butter at lunch and I don’t want to get any on this desk where _______ sits next period?” or “Are you going to be OK if I eat my sandwich? I don’t want you to breathe in my bread?” (during lunchtime tutoring), and my personal favorite (after a student offered me the pizza coupons he found in his textbook) “OH wait, that’s gluten and dairy! Guys, I just offered Miss Burke death. I am so sorry!” Yes, if nothing else, allergy-aware ought to be added to that list of adjectives describing today’s young people. Or perhaps vigilant would be more appropriate. The ones living with their own allergies quietly turn and read wrappers or turn to their teacher for verification before diving into a treat, the ones living with allergy-ridden siblings are quiet caretakers, not only for their siblings but for anyone they know is dealing with the same, and all of them subconsciously spend their days worrying about/caring for the allergy-ridden individuals in their lives, including me. I’m not sure how they do it exactly, but the way they do it in such a laidback, “this is just the way it is” manner inspires me to do the same.
|They’re never short on creativity.
Unfortunately including Miss Burke’s corn syrup issue doesn’t earn any points on the rubric…
So in short, two lessons from this week. 1) Find what it is that brings you joy, love, and laughter and rely on it until you get your bearings straight and 2) Believe in the promise of the future. I mean think about it, in how many Fortune 500 companies do you have employees wiping down their table after they finish eating with a non-bleach, all-natural Clorox wipe to protect the employee after them from an unforeseen allergen contamination? And yet, in elementary schools across the country kids are doing that each and every single day. So in my opinion, 20 years from now, the world will be a much more allergy-friendly place…not because there are less allergies, but because there are more people who are aware and caring.
Now I promise, my next post will have a recipe…but until then, I’ll give a quick plug for an amazing pick-me-up/carry-me-through-the-last-weeks-of-school treat. Califia Farms Cold-Brew coffee. Dairy-free, gluten-free, caffeine-filled!…and oh-so-delicious.
|Flashback to 2008:
One of my favorite pictures with some of my first-year class…so much love. And craziness
…but then again, isn’t love crazy anyway?? 🙂