not behind backs but to faces. I promised my class that if we got through all the Dave Ramsey videos this week, we would share our survey answers on Friday. Some of the kids played Monopoly in the back of the room; that was a legitimate option as well. Some wanted me to share the answers to the survey we took about one another.
Their assignment, which I gave a week ago, was to put three adjectives by each of the class members’ names. And then the students had to answer all kinds of future oriented questions about themselves. I have found that students like you to make them do this kind of stuff, to give them the excuse of having to do it. I gathered everyone’s sheet and read all the adjectives the others ( including yours truly) offered in description – only positives to neutrals were allowed. They really didn’t offer any negative.
They were Friday afternoon giggly, but when I called out an individual’s name, that person would always hush the others and lean forward, eyes wide to hear. I watched him/her take in and try to swallow down the encouraging and well thought out words. When I would read a well-chosen adjective, others would shake their heads in agreement and murmur yeahs. I watched the eyes of the receiver dart toward the source of the yeahs, listening well, barely holding back a smile and maybe even tears.
They loved it. They asked if we could do something like it everyday until our semester course was over. I promised a great deal of such.
Then, I asked them what they would want someone to describe them as. There was lots of silence for a bit, “Did I mean,” they asked, “what they wanted someone to not say about them?”
“No, too easy. What would you want them to say?”
That was harder.
I called on one and got it going. And everything dropped down another level. Eyes started meeting. Moment obscured Monopoly. Finally, we got to me. “How about you, Mrs. Sullivan?” asks the one guy who most loved the exercise, most begged for us to share it in class. He’s the student that is hurting and fumbling, but trying ( the good words seemed life and breath to him.) I so see him trying. I met his eyes and then inspected the ceiling’s contours. “I want you guys to know that I give a damn, ” I tightened my teeth against my own tears. I’m sure such utterance was a fireable offense. Fire me, I speak truth. They all smiled…some raised their eyes to mine, dared lock them and nodded, you do. Mr. Compatriot looked at me with his fatherless, forced out of his house by his mother, just recently suspended for fighting with a smart ass who would stop insulting another student’s mother, and as such being prosecuted for assault, always bursting out in class, my most difficult child, self, and stared me through and said,” I know that you do. You, do.”
I can’t help but love these kids. I can’t make all the circumstances of their lives better, but I can go to bat for them, and risk a little for them, and step over their not so high, not really electrified fences, and try my best to speak words of life and breath to them.
I owe them that…they do the same for me.