Two years ago on the day after Thanksgiving break I took a mid-year position teaching 7th grade English. Coming in mid-year is the most insane thing any human can do. The kids hate you before you even walk through the door, thus don’t give you a break–doesn’t matter what you say or how you present it. That year was grueling. There were days when I would pack up my classroom mentally and consider leaving by Friday and never looking back, not once. I’m not sure how or why but I somehow was able to, for one year only, take it one day at time. I remember I would awaken each morning thinking can I make it to lunch and if the answer was yes, then I’d get ready. Students were out of control, arrived late, called me mean nicknames, it was tough.
When I interviewed for the job, I thought I’ve taught for four years; I can do this. It turned out I could do it, but it was quite the roller coaster. One cold winter’s day, a strawberry blonde 7th grade girl came up to me and said, “Ms. C. can we eat lunch with you today?” I turned to check that she wasn’t talking to the person behind me because I was so stunned that these students whom I had put into the they-will-never-bond-with-me-and-I’m-letting-it-go-box actually wanted to spend time with me. Many friends have asked me how I survived that year and I fondly smile and say it was my lunch bunch group. More importantly it was this amazing 7th grade girl who knew herself so well at such a young age. She wrote poems and kept a writing notebook of her own. She watched Downton Abbey and read Jhumpa Lahiri. Not only did she watch and read these, but would debrief episodes and short story characters with me weekly. We ate lunch and laughed together. Each day I began to grow a little less resentful and was reminded of why I chose to come back to the classroom after a six month break.
I remember taking her and a couple of other students to perform at Busboys and Poets on a Saturday for Youth Open Mic. They were the only 12 year olds there and it didn’t bother them. They read poems about Algebra class. This brilliantly talented student gave me a life line that year. During a time when I struggled, she was there to talk Downton Abbey with me on Mondays.
Today in the midst of insanely working faster than ever before–grades were due today–I heard a distant student voice outside my classroom window. At first, I was sure I was hallucinating due to being stuck in overdrive. I was grading my final 7 Personal Narrative of the 60 that I had to grade today. It would have been totally believable that point to have a ghost of students’ past visit me in my haze. Then, I heard it again, so I turned just in case I wasn’t going completely crazy. And there they were! My lunch bunch crew from two years ago. All of them. “Ms. C!!! Hi!! How are you?” They yelped in unison. “Hi!” I yelped back equally excited to see them.
“Guess what? Amy is here!” One of them said. “Really? I thought she moved away?” I replied fondly remembering one of my favorite students from two years ago. Then out thin air she materialized right outside my classroom window. “Hi! Ms. C.” “Amy!” I whisper screamed and pawed at my window. (It so easy to channel my inner 12 year old; it’s what makes me good at my job.) She, of course, pawed back.
The brief encounter, with Amy, gave me yet another life line. I flew through the last narratives smiling the whole time. It made me realize how deep a love I have for certain students.
Thank you for that solid life line you threw me two years ago. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today if it weren’t for you and the lunch bunch crew. I know you will become a successful novelist, poet, writer someday.