Tuesday, January 28, 2020

By George

Dear George,
It was just about two weeks ago that you gave me one of my proudest teaching moments. I had introduced the reading quiz we were about to take in class by saying that it wasn't  the first students who finished who usually did the best. It was those students who took their time to try and figure out the answers to the questions that they read who got the best scores. Just before the end of the class, you were the last one in the room to finish. You got one hundred percent. I was happy for you. Not just because of your success, but because I know that reading is not your favorite thing. I know this because you have announced it. Several times this year. You got every answer correct on your quiz not because you love reading so much, but in spite of it. And I was happy for me, too. I considered this a success for me as a teacher too.
We have known each other since you were in kindergarten. I taught you then, and now six years later, I am winding up my time with you. During that time I have seen you struggle with reading and writing in computer class, but I have watched you blossom out on the playground. In PE, and as a Young Hero during recess, your skills are abundant. I applaud your efforts on the soccer field, but even more I appreciate your willingness to try something new: basketball. You are taking a chance on something you were never that good at, but you found yourself taking to it almost from the very first practice. I guess none of us should have been surprised.
But at the end of last week, you also broke my heart a little. I know how much you struggle when we have a substitute in your room. It takes you a long time to warm up to a new person, and getting used to a new grownup telling you what to do is one of your biggest challenges. Which may be why you tend to challenge them back. Complaints of "What did I do?" and "That's not fair" come out of you long before all of your great problem solving abilities. You run your teachers through an obstacle course of acceptance that is calculated to make them match your first teacher, your kindergarten teacher whom your still regard as the best you ever had.
She probably was. She got you to read and to learn and to accept responsibility for your actions. She put you on a path to being the leader that you have become at our school. I am grateful to have made a connection with you that has helped me help you. Finally, after all this time, I feel as though you will listen to me. That is what that reading quiz taught me.
But the next week, when you were struggling with that new authority while your teacher was out, you retreated to some of those old habits. You got stuck in a place that made you question authority. Even the voices that were trying to help you get to a safe place for learning. I lost my temper with you, and for that I apologize. I was upset because I felt that I could not go back down a path where I was begging you to do the right thing. I was not comfortable watching you exchange your true leadership skills for those of a class clown.
You are not that. You are far better than that. And I am a better teacher than that.
So I am very sad. It was a tough week for a lot of kids and teachers at our school. It was one of those weeks where we are all glad when the weekend shows up and we can push the do-over button for the next Monday morning. Bouncing back is never easy, but it gets harder when you're as old as I am. I hope you can help me with that. I hope that there is still another great moment of learning ahead for the two of us.
If there's not, I want to thank you for that one. And many others, over the years. Next year, you'll be off to middle school and I will be back at work, trying to solve the puzzle that is three hundred other kids. I hope you remember that time we have spent together, not for our last week, but for all those weeks before. And what lays in front of you.
Mister Caven

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