Thursday, June 11, 2009

Life In a Box

Today the local elementary schools closed their doors for the last time until September (well, late, late August, really). That means I spent the day saying farewell to my students, organizing the classroom, and packing up my desk. In the nine-ish months that I've spent working with kids with behavior issues, I feel that I've learned and grown so much. And yet, somehow I've managed to accumulate fairly little in the way of stuff. I could fit all of the contents of my desk into a single printer paper box.

So what did I load up my cardboard box of work love with? In the way of items I put in my mouth, I had a can of chicken noodle soup for a (literally) rainy day and a bowl to eat it out of, some special Malaysian candy to reward my students with a protein/granola bar or two, tea, Airborne, cough drops, peanut butters, and a newly opened pack of gum. I stashed my toothbrush, a framed photo of the Best Husband Ever and I, gear for inclement recesses (rain boots, hat, gloves, and an umbrella), a lint roller, and a notepad that I barely used. Into the box also went a few dictionaries that my teacher was getting rid of that I thought might be useful in a future mainstream elementary classroom or a homeschooling situation, even though neither one of those is an imminent prospect. I don't even know if I want to homeschool our theoretical children, but I figure that dictionaries are good to have and I can always donate them if not.

What else did my first year working in education full-time hide in my desk? A couple of children's books I picked up at the beginning of the year, educational computer games (think Oregon Trail and Zoo Tycoon) that I had brought in at the start of the school year for our classroom computers), and a pink monkey that one of my kids gave me on Valentine's Day. That's not to mention my calendar, binders of information on Mandt restraint methods and remedial reading programs, documentation of my evaluations and of next school year's start up procedures, and my I.D. badge.

Not a whole lot of stuff. But what I'm really taking home this summer is much larger, much more lasting, and far more important than stuffed monkeys and peanut butter and children's thesauri. I get to take with me a vast increase in confidence, both as an educator and simply as an adult. I have new skills to help the most difficult children learn and practice appropriate behavior, and I have a new passion for this often draining but never boring or unimportant work. I developed a new caring for kids, especially those like my own students, who live in broken or absuive or (if they're lucky) group homes. I'm even taking away a yearning for motherhood that I have never experienced before.

In September of last year, I never would have guessed that I'd miss my class when they hopped on the bus home for the last time, or that I would find myself laden with so many blessings from a job. I feel content and flabbergasted and privileged all at the same time as a result of this past school year. Isn't life sweet sometimes?

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King