Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Notes to the Teacher

I am not out of school very often. I take a couple days off every few years to go to a conference. It is rejuvenating. I took a personal day last year when my brother Dan came into town on a Friday. But other than those, I don’t remember taking a day off school. For years.

I am not tooting my own horn. I have been blessed with good health. I have been able to schedule doctor visits after school and during vacations. I had a pretty serious health scare summer before last, but I didn’t have to miss any school.

For one thing, writing substitute plans is a pain. I don’t really teach from textbooks, so I can’t just say to turn the page in the teacher’s edition (you know, the book with all the answers) and do what comes next. It’s fairly hands on, the way we teach and learn at my school. There are lots of conversations and lots of exploration and sharing out. It is a challenge to get that kind of thing down in writing for a sub.

I get an occasional cold or sinus infection, but I cover the symptoms and tough it out. I’m not a tough guy; it’s just that it’s not all that easy on the class – and definitely not that easy on me.

But the other day I went to NC to see my mom who has not been feeling that great. It turned out that she had an important doctor’s appointment on Monday and I wanted to be there with her for it. So, I arranged for a substitute and discussed it with my intern, Trina. I called school around 10:30 from my mom’s and the secretary put me through to the room. I talked to the children on the speakerphone. It was fun and I felt good knowing that the kids were in good humor and in good hands.

When I got to school the next morning I was earlier than usual. I hadn’t slept great the night before and so I was in a bit of a haze. The room was tidy. The chairs were still up on the tables so the custodian could vacuum effectively. Even my own table, usually messy, was tidied up. It was good to be back.

There, right where I usually sit, was a pile of notes the children had written to me while I was gone. OK, it wasn’t on the lesson plans, but as I sat down to read, I could tell that it was time well spent…

I hope that your mother is feeling better! I really miss you today but you are probably helping your mother right now... I give you good wishes for your mother… It’s not the same in this classroom without you. I really hope that your mom feels better. It’s important to you so it’s important to me… I know what you must be feeling. I’ve felt that way before… I really miss you a lot. When you get back, let us know how your mom is doing, OK? I don’t think O-Ball [our homemade version of dodge ball/capture the flag] will be as fun as it is with you. I miss you so much that I think I want to cry… If your ma feels better then I know you will feel better… I missed you today and I want you to come back soon. Trick-or-Treat, smell my ____ What comes next?... We missed you today, a lot! I think it’s OK that you were out because your mother is sick. I don’t want to leave you at the end of this year. We love you sooooo much!... I missed you a lot. And I wish you were here. It is sad that you’re gone but you’ll be back tomorrow and I’ll see you again, but I miss you!... I miss you soooo much. I want you to come back. You’re a good son but I can’t handle one more day without you…

Almost every one of these little notes was signed with the most important word of all.


And, I think they meant it. I certainly love them. And they know it. No one was sucking up. They were sincere.

You know, not every day is an awesome day. There are afternoons after school when I am plum worn out. I get cross sometimes. And demanding. And sarcastic. I have my faults. We all do. But I always feel like a lucky guy to be doing just what I am doing. Who else gets to hang around and think deeply about real important stuff with a big old group of best friends?

I am blessed. And I am loved.


ruck said...

Heidi is showing me how to leave a comment --so, I will comment -- I love you

Emily Whitecotton said...

Great share, Tim. I was getting my kids ready for some time that I will be out for NCTE in the next few weeks, when one of my students said something to the effect of....Oh no! This is not going to be good. Other people don't understand how we do things in here. They don't know how you listen and how we talk. Are you sure you HAVE to be gone?...
I had to laugh because she wasn't wrong. My favorite part about that whole exchange (returning from having a sub) is the clear appreciation we have for one another once we're back together. I genuinely miss my kids (as I know you do), and they genuinely miss me (as it is clear yours miss you). Thanks for consistently providing a window into classroom life where humanity and care flourish. Rock on.

Chris Hass said...

How thoughtful of Trina to take a moment for the kids to create those cards! I seem to remember another of your interns did the same thing for you a year or two ago. I think that speaks to the quality of interns we have as well.

I've grown accustomed to having groups that moan and whine at the prospect of a sub. They feel uncomfortable because the normal routine will be broken, someone different might try reading the next chapter of our read aloud (and not know the voices), and the sub might not know we don't yell in our classroom. Like most, I've had some wonderful subs and some real stinkers. You are right - it's much easier to be there than not.

maria said...

It has been quite easy to become disheartened toward this noble profession recently. This post has rejuvenated my strength and my spirit. Thank you.