Last week, I was walking down the hallway on the way to lunch when I passed one of my former students. One of those students you joke that you wish you had 10 of: sweet, cheerful, hard-working, enthusiastic. Last year, he would just randomly let out these delightful little bursts of excitement in the middle of class: "I love Spanish!" "Your Notebook files are the best!" Not many 7th grade boys just say stuff like that in front of everyone, even if they are having fun!
"Hi, P!" What a great kid. "Hi, Mrs. M!" Instead of walking on, he turns toward me and stops me at the side of the hallway. Bright eyes, earnest smile, cheerful as ever. "I just wanted to tell you how much your class last year helped me get ready for Spanish I. I was so prepared for this year because of you! It was really such a great class and I'm so glad I took it!"
I want to squeal with joy and skip down the hallway.
My classes are often on the small side, with less-"academic", more well-established programs (we only got 7th grade Spanish 3 years ago) like art, tech, etc. squeezing kids' already-too-tight schedules. Together with a colleague who teaches at another school, I basically created the 6th & 7th grade programs from scratch. I hand-make almost all of the activities we do in class. I'm so proud of my programs and the learning that takes place in them, but sometimes it's easy to get discouraged about class sizes, being made to feel like "just" related arts, or being split between 3 buildings and yet belonging to none.
On top of everything, I found out a couple weeks ago that 6th & 7th grade Spanish are both being cut, due to the levy failure. (Along with many other drastic cuts, all devastating to student opportunities.) All that work, my heart and soul and sweat and tears, swept away because of money and politics.
I tried to tell myself that it was all worth it, that I had helped 3 years' worth of 6th & 7th graders discover Spanish, prepare themselves for future language study, look at the world from a new perspective, gain tolerance, learn new tech tools, and have fun while doing it all. And I knew it was true, that those kids had new skills and new attitudes they wouldn't have without me. But it was hard to believe myself.
It took one of them less than 30 seconds in the hallway to prove it to me.