Friday, December 5, 2008

Thank God for Little Girls

This has been the best and worst week of my teaching career. Yesterday I left school looking for the nearest WalMart that was hiring. That's right, people. I was ready to go work at WalMart. I almost called my prinicpal to say "I'm done. Find somebody else. I'm miserable and I don't deserve this." I was dreading going to my classroom today. I cried all the way there.

I have some very challenging students this year, in particular, some very troubling boys. Yesterday, two of them were back from a five day suspension after getting in a fist fight, and they brought their wrath down on all of us. Yesterday, my classroom was a place where no one learned a thing and no one wanted to be there. I was nagging, mean - just the most horrid teacher you've ever seen. By the end of the day, the only way I could fight back the tears was to yell and scream and shake - I even pulled a muscle in my neck because I was so tense. The sound that came out of my mouth was unlike any sound I've ever heard. If my principal had been there, I'd surely be without a job at the moment. It was the lowest I've ever sunk. Just terrible.

After a much needed pep talk from a fellow teacher last night, I got to school nice and early today. I prepared lots of new behavior charts and systems, put in place some new rewards, changed a few procedures to make the day run more smoothly. But I was terrified of picking up my kids at 8:55. I wasn't sure I could look at them without crying. But I bucked up and showed up to the bus room with a smile plastered on my face. I forced myself to say good morning to every one of them, like I do every day, and I led them upstairs. As I was sitting at my desk, one of my little girls came up to me and said, "Mrs. F, I have a present for you!" Determined to change my attitude and have a good day, I smiled at her and said, "Oh goody! What is it?" instead of "Not now, you have work to do."

This little girl is one of those who does everything she can to impress her teacher. She shows up every day with finger curls in her hair, a smile on her face, and warmth in her heart. She makes a point to say nice things to everyone at her table before the day starts. She hugs all her friends at the end of the day. She's just the sweetest thing you've ever seen. She told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. She placed something small and jingly in my palm. I kept my eyes closed and shook it next to my ear to guess what it could be. I opened my eyes to see a small, silver ring covered in green and red jingle bells. It fit perfectly on my index finger and it jingled whenever I moved my hand. I don't know why, but when I put it on, all of my troubles just melted away and I was reminded that kids are good. Kids are sweet. Kids are full of love and capable of real sentiment. With that tiny gift, my attitude and my heart did a total 180 degree turn from where I was before. I would go so far as to say, that pretty little girl saved my career.

Our day was still a challenge. I still have boys that would sooner scream obscenities at each other and run out of the room before talking about their feelings. I still have kids who can't handle working in groups and I still spent most of my morning dealing with misbehavior. But today I made a commitment to pay attention to those kids that are making the right choices. I was determined to give compliments instead of "constructive criticism" (because that would be nagging and pointless). I forced myself to smile and it worked. When you smile at kids, they smile back. My kids rocked it out this afternoon. I know it's a direct result of my decision to love them whether they liked it or not. By the end of the day, we were all smiling. And it warmed my heart.

I didn't know it at the time, but that little girl must have been the reason I went to school today.

Thanks, Shante!


Meredith said...

Girl. If I ever, ever, EVER see you working at a Wal Mart, I will have to kick your ass.

I love the ring. I don't know how you do it...I have always been in awe of your ability to find the positives in a negative situation, but I know it has to be exhausting.

Madonna said...

Alright...a fellow blogger. I am glad that you had a better day yesterday. My kids were hyper yesterday. I am a little nervous about the next two more student teacher.

Laura said...

oh Rachael! You're the BEST teacher ever -- I'm calling you right now.