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We have four weeks of school left. Four. Weeks. Personally I don’t think any learning happens in June. When standardized testing is over and the air conditioners aren’t working and everyone is just sweaty and sleepy and ready for summer. But, I have 19 more days with them. Nineteen more days where I am responsible for their safety, their happiness, their education. This year has been the hardest of my life (a note about vicarious trauma, grad school while working full time, burnout, newfound anxiety, self-care, understaffed schools, and mid-year promotions later). But teaching, like any profession (especially helping professions), is made possible by balancing difficult moments with beautiful ones. Those moments here and there that make it worth it.

Sometimes they are right in front of you – a hug, a kind word, a little victory, a surprise gift of chocolate covered espresso beans. Sometimes you have to look very hard to see them. Sometimes you go days without any moments and that is when the burnout hits you hardest and you feel endlessly tired and cry at your desk. But sometimes there are days composed of moments so bright, the whole thing is iridescent. Last Thursday was one.

I had been dropping hints that my birthday was coming for a while because I wanted to see if the kids would remember. Every morning I pick them up from the gym to bring them to homeroom and I expected that one kid would remember and then they would all join in with the ‘happy birthdays’ after being reminded.

Instead, I walked in and was immediately swarmed by eleven year olds. Eleven year olds with arms outstretched, screaming. Maybe they were actually that excited about my birthday. Maybe they just wanted to scream. Don’t we all? I got a card with several spelling variations of my name, a card that just said “Happy” from my little boy who doesn’t speak English, a beaded necklace, a stuffed octopus, and a bag of Hershey kisses that I was told explicitly not to share with anyone. You don’t have to tell me twice, Alicia.

I think they behaved a little better than normal during class. Maybe it was my imagination or rose-colored glasses from all the love that morning. Maybe it’s because there was a line in the book we are reading that says, “I pooped it out!” and I couldn’t help but scream it at the top of my lungs in the hopes that all the surrounding classes heard. The kids pretended to be embarrassed because they think they are too cool for poop jokes, but they secretly loved it. I know because later I got a card that said “have a very hapy poop….I mean birthday.” Thanks, Lizbeth.

And it didn’t even stop there. My co-workers and brothers in arms gave me the most thoughtful note and gift-card to Starbucks (which I was told one of my students approved because “Ms. Smogard only likes coffee, books, X-Men, and minions”. You’re not wrong, Carlos). The next morning I swapped classes for prep-periods with another teacher and I got to spend three uninterrupted fresh morning hours lesson planning with 16 ounces of coffee. I could not remember when I had last been happier. That night we celebrated with rum, games, stories, cakes, and a violently decapitated piñata.

PSA – don’t leave your phone unattended at a party. This is what happens.

The next morning we escaped to Portland, ME for some sunshine and lobster. It’s been a weekend full of moments and I’m ready for four more weeks.

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Comments:

  1. As usual beautifully written. Hang in there. We love you. Wish you were back in Shanti Bhavan.
    With affection,
    Mariam

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