Today at work, I had not only the most surprising moment of my time at this job thus far, but also easily the most heart-moving and touching. In my initial post about this job from about 7 months ago (see here for a refresher if needed about the nature of my current teaching job, details of what I do exactly, as well as the joy and satisfaction it brings me), I mentioned that one of the three classes I help teach in is an especially difficult one. I am not sure why, I still cannot fully figure it out, but this particular group of kids within this one class are pretty troubled, there is a ton of bullying, nastiness, harassment, cruelty and just a general toxic atmosphere within that classroom.
This is something which in the beginning, I tried with all of myself to help with changing the dynamics of. I poured my heart and time into presentations I gave to the class on topics such as respect, bullying, friendship, bravery, etc. I attempted (and still do attempt) to connect with each of them one-on-one whenever I get the chance. I take a lot of time to listen to them whenever I am able to, when they approach me to talk. Whether just about their weekends, something they feel excited about that they wish to share with me, or about a problem they are having. I try my best to make them feel truly heard and that I care about them. I take time to explain to them why the choices they make are harmful (when that is the case). I helped run sessions with the kids during which we would discuss the problems within the classroom as a group and within which I would give them my own thoughts and feedback about how to handle these issues, what is acceptable and what isn't, thoughts about topics like friendship and boundaries in general, and telling them about my concerns and sadness for them regarding their behavior to one another, etc. I have put a great deal of myself into this class until recently, when some shifts occurred within the dynamics of the classroom.
And much to my heartbreak and dismay, during my work with these kids I realized that many of them have no interest in being reached. At least at the moment. They are too engulfed in the responses of reacting to one another with cruelty, anger and bullying. However, there are a few children within this class, a small handful of them, who are eager to learn, who do seem somewhat susceptible to influence and guidance, and who I can clearly see have consciences and kindness in their hearts.
I have become particularly close with a few of them. One of these children, age 10, is a little girl named Giselle.
She has been out sick for the past week, so yesterday in the hall on a whim while passing her little brother, I grabbed him and asked if he might please tell his sister that I hoped she felt better soon and that I was thinking of her. That was yesterday.
Today when he passed me in the hall on his way to lunch, he called out to me, "Miss. English, I have something for you!!"
He gave me this (from his sister):
I love so much about this job. I cherish the close connections I have formed with a number of the children in whose classrooms I work every day. This moment really brought all of that together for me. How incredibly awesome, totally sweet and special. My heart stopped when I opened this letter and I have re-read it a number of times through the afternoon, feeling it fill my heart each time that I do.