Tuesday, May 10, 2016

3,500 Tickets

As a teacher, one of the hardest things is spending hours and hours planning, worrying, and trying to do your best for your students, who generally would rather be anywhere than hearing what you have to say. Pretty much, you worry all the time that you're not doing enough for the kids, that they hate you, and, most importantly, that you're not making a difference. This time of year is especially hard, as the students (and teachers!) are mentally already on summer break.

I've talked before about my love of teaching, but more specifically I've talked about my deep and undying love of my eighth grade students this year. Because I teach at a Catholic school, I teach all three middle school grades, which means my eighth grade students this year were my seventh grade students last year. I am supposed to be the eighth grade homeroom teacher, but because of a staffing issue last year, I ended up being both the seventh and eighth grade homeroom teacher last year. I say all that to say, my eighth grade students this year have been in my homeroom for two years and have been my Language Arts students for two years also. You form a very close bond with your students, and you form an even closer bond with them when you're their teacher for multiple years in a row.

I have said before that this year's eighth grade class is notoriously difficult. The school where I teach starts in preschool, so a lot of these kids have been going to school together for a long time. They have long been labeled as a very difficult class, and, I will admit, they are. The class is 11 boys and two girls. And, as previously stated, they are the raggiest taggiest group of weirdos on earth.

AND. I. LOVE. THEM.

More than words can say.

No, really. I teach English, I know, but when it comes to my love of these kids, I just don't have any words.

And then, they went and did this to me:

They returned to school yesterday after having been gone on a band trip all weekend (including Friday). They showed up to homeroom in their usual colorful way. I took attendance and lunch count as usual. After the announcements, one of my kids (the class clown) comes up to my desk, and he's holding something. It's this sign that says "Rock."

At first I'm like, WHY ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR SEAT?! Then he starts talking.

He said, "Miss Lafferre, see this? We got this on our trip this weekend. It cost us 3,500 tickets and about $70."

And I'm sitting there like -- why did you bring it to school?! I look at the class, and they're all sitting there listening and watching. And I'm just like what is happening?

He told me that the kids in the class pooled all their tickets because they were determined to win this thing.

For me.

Me.

I just sat there.

"We thought that you need something to remember us by, and we thought this would remind you of us."

I'm still just sitting there.

"Also, it's supposed to light up, but we broke it on the way back. But then we thought it's kind of like us -- trying to do something good but messing it up a little bit."

This kid explains that it broke while he was HOLDING IT ON THE BUS on the way back when they got to a bumpy road. However, another kid tells me that the breaking might have happened when first said kid attempted to pack it in his suitcase. :)

I don't even know what to say.

I'm like, "You guys did all this? For me?"

And they're like, "Yeah."

Then this kid goes and puts it on top of a cabinet, the bell rings, and they leave.

And I'm still sitting there like IS THIS MY REAL LIFE?!

Seventh grade comes in for class, and I'm still sitting there looking at this thing.

The seventh grade, having also attended the band trip, started asking me if I liked it.

And I was just like, "I ... just ... can't ... believe ... it."

I was, obviously, in tears. And in shock.

Then, one of the seventh grade girls tells me that one of the eighth grade boys PAID HER $5.00 for some of her tickets because they needed a few more for this thing.

All I could think to say was, "Seventh grade, you guys better get more awesome over the summer because you have BIG shoes to fill."

The sixth grade came later (also on the trip) and wanted to hear me talk about it, and then the fifth grade came at the end of the day, and although they were not on the trip, one of the girls is the little sister of an eighth grade girl, so she knew all about it. I was totally crying as I told the kids the story.

When the eighth grade came back for class, I was just like "Guys. I don't even. I mean I just don't even. I have to tell you guys that what you did is, by far, the nicest thing that has ever happened to me since I started teaching here. In fact, it's the nicest thing that's ever happened to me at any of the jobs I've ever had."

Their response?

"Really? Because that's really sad if that's the nicest thing."

Kids, man. They don't get it.

After school when I was on parking lot duty, I looked at my principal and said, "I have seriously been in tears ALL DAY."

My principal, who had been on the trip, was like "Anna, I wish you had seen them. They were like 'We gotta win this for Miss Lafferre!' They were so into it."

I went back to my desk after school and went through THREE TISSUES because all I could do was sit there, look at my sign, and cry. One of my eighth grade girls sent me an email with a picture she took of a few of the kids right after they had "bought" my present. Obviously I started crying harder. The thing is, the one kid who I feel like I don't have the best relationship with was the kid who was HOLDING the gift in the picture.

I did the only thing I knew how to do, which was write to them. I might teach English, but verbal words fail me sometimes. I'm much better with written words. (I said that to them in their letter.) I wrote them a letter, printed out 13 copies, wrote their names on them, and put them on their desks with candy.

This morning when they started trickling in to homeroom, I stood in the hall right outside the room, instead of standing in the room like I usually do. I watched as they, one by one, picked up their letters and read them. My homeroom has NEVER been that quiet. Not one of them said a word about it, but one of the kids (the original gift bearer) brought his phone into the hallway and was like, "Miss Lafferre, I thought you'd like to see a video of us on the bus ride back."

Um, yeah I did.

And a few more of them came out and crowded around.

And when the video was over, I looked at the phone-holder, and was just like "I need to give you a hug." So I did. And I hugged the other kid out there, too.

The thing is, I worry that I didn't express enough emotion when they first bestowed me with my gift. In fact, I'm so worried that my reaction let them down. But I was truly in such shock I didn't know what to do with my life. I think I'm still in shock.

Tomorrow takes us to 10 days. 10 more days with these precious kids. My favorite kids. They were always my favorites. I have no idea how in the world I will ever, ever make it without them.

Parents of my eighth graders -- you should be so, so, so proud of the kids you are raising.

Teachers and other parents -- 364 days of the year, we feel like we are making no difference whatsoever. But on that 1 day when we know we are, it's life-changing.

I am not the best teacher in the world. There are many, many other teachers at my school that deserve that honor. But at least I think I can hang with the best of them in how much I love them. Because I love them so much that it actually hurts. Sometimes I can't believe that the Lord would bless me so much. I am so undeserving of these kids, but they just keep coming back day after day.


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