Semi-Sweet, Bitter-Sweet?

Guest Blog Posted by: M. Wilson-Alexander

Everyone loves a chocolate chip cookie.  What is it about the combination: that sweet white sugar, delectable brown sugar, and creamy, softened butter creating a light-as-air dough, stuffed full of semi-sweet chocolate chips?  The chocolate chip cookie has the power to change the world, or, at the very least, make each of our days a little brighter.

My first memory of this timeless treat, like most people, goes back to my childhood, and as most of my food memories do – or at least the good ones – comes from time spent with my Grandma Wilson.  When I eat a chocolate chip cookie, I am subconsciously connecting with my former self: the little girl baking cookies with her big sister and her grandma.  It is home. It is family. It is love.  It is comfort, which probably somewhat explains my strong desire to bake chocolate chip cookies a day after returning from a quick weekend trip to visit my family out of state in Ohio.  As much as I love my independence, leaving home always gives me pause. It is always bittersweet.

On Monday afternoon I went to the grocery with the purpose of purchasing a post-state-testing-celebration treat to bring to my students.  And for some reason, I knew I had to make chocolate chip cookies.  Today, about halfway through a 2 1/2 hour testing block when one of my classes was stuck with me for “class time,” not testing, I announced that I had made cookies to celebrate their completion of their standardized state test yesterday.

Oh, the joy of cookies!  These creative, sweet, intelligent, complex 16-year-olds reacted like I had just bought them back stage passes for a One Direction concert (yes, you too can be up on all the popular boy bands if you choose to teach high school). Twenty eight teenagers swarmed the front table and hungrily snatched cookies from my modest faux-Tupperware containers.  They reveled in the pure, simple joy of sugar, butter and chocolate.  And then they thanked me.  Yes, me.  Their teacher for nearly 10 months.  Their guide, their encourager, their supporter, their biggest fan when it comes to their reading and writing skills.  Even though it was just for my wonderfully delicious Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies.  I’ll take it.

The end of the school year is always bittersweet for me. My students’ sunshine-shaped end-of-the-year countdown has adorned my whiteboard for the last three weeks.  My students and I have bonded in our simple joy of summertime anticipation. By this time of year, I have finally figured out my students.  I know what to expect when each unique class enters my room every day.  I know that Megan will come in late to first period because her older brother doesn’t ever get her to school on time, and if she’ s early, we will all marvel in her punctuality.  I know that the hyper-active, always-hungry boys in my third period will behave better if I just break the school’s rule and let them eat their snacks during class.  I know that someone will need to borrow my iPhone charger at some point during the day, and I will kindly lend it to them because I’m a teacher who’s prepared for anything. And I know that each day, one of them will surprise me with a profound, funny, or extremely rude comment.  I have grown quite fond of many of them, even the ones who often make me question why I chose this profession. Especially some of those.  They challenge me. They make me reflect and become a better teacher.

I am a nurturer; I am a people-pleaser, hence the chocolate chip cookies.  I am a teacher who refuses to play the scary, mean teacher role to control my students. I refuse to be a bitch day in and day out, as has been advised by some coworkers.  Even if it means that I have some difficult days in my classroom.  Finally, after much – vocabulary term: internal conflict, i.e. woman vs. self – I have accepted this about myself.  I choose to be a positive, accepting, nurturing teacher who challenges my students to learn by example.  I will go into this next school year equipped with the knowledge this year’s students helped me acquire about myself and about my teaching.

As much as they drive me crazy some days, as much as I despise waking up at 5:30 in the morning, I will miss them come summer.  They have become my family, my home.  Sadly, our relationships will never be the same after these nine remaining days. Sure, a few might stop by and say hello at the beginning of next school year, but all the work we did to become an accepting, collaborating, creative, and learning community will come to an end. Next year they will have a new English teacher.  Next year I will have to start over with five new class periods. Next year I will have to get to know 145 new students.

It is inevitable: children must always leave the nest.  We can just do our best to prepare them for what lies ahead, and hold on to the memories with each passing year.  And maybe next year I’ll start with the cookies…


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