As you know, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. When I opened the classroom door, I was met with boys and girls bouncing up and down in excitement. They were wearing smiles and holding heart-shaped boxes of chocolates or bags filled with signed cards for their friends.
There was a whole lot of love and friendship overflowing in that room, but I had mixed feelings. This probably doesn’t come as any huge surprise. The last several weeks filled with frustration and anger about the treatment that my son and family has received from his school and school district. As a first grade teacher, I cannot allow any of that to trickle into my classroom. My intention for that day, was to lead with positive feelings of friendship, happiness and love.
One by one, the kids emptied the contents of their bags into decorated bags around our room. Many waited until I was watching and only then would proudly put their gifts in my valentine holder. Some, couldn’t walk away without telling me the contents of their present. This was a true example of the saying it is better to give than to receive. Despite the written schedule on the board, they repeatedly asked, “When can we look in our bags?” In that moment, on that day, even kids that don’t usually spend too much time noticing each other, felt a common bond of excitement. Two girls joined hands, looked at each other, and squealed in anticipation of the activities to come. This was what Valentine’s Day SHOULD be like!
Not long after their arrival, we went for a two-hour workshop with the rest of the first grade students. A former classroom teacher turned scientist, came to help each child make a working, magnetic toy. Evidence of friendship could be found everywhere while students helped each other hammer and create their masterpieces. Those that needed help felt less frustrated and those that were able to serve others, stood a bit taller.
After lunch, it was finally reveal time.
Students took out their valentines one by one and thanked the givers. Although it was so much louder than I typically allow, I didn’t have the heart to quiet the joy. When they were finished with all of their “thank yous” and “you’re welcomes” we enjoyed a snack of cookies and juice. I will say that the twenty plus years of teaching helped when I created the schedule for the day, because I planned that the sugar would take place before recess and PE.
During PE, I thought about the talk that I was going to have with my students. Fourteen of my students have been with me since last September. I have been their only teacher at “the big school” and maybe that is why I feel even more responsibility as to how I share that I will not continue working full-time.
When I saw my principal walk in the room, I knew it was time to share the plan. The plan that I kept quiet until it was formally approved and the perfectly qualified people had been identified. The plan that was developed in an attempt to balance my professional desires with my personal life. I didn’t want to cry and I didn’t need to cry, but I looked at my students sitting criss-cross applesauce, eyes on me and I felt overwhelmed.
They sat quietly as I explained the upcoming changes. They looked to me and I showed them that this was not going to be a big deal for them. I felt the same feelings of responsibility as I do during our emergency drills. Their eyes all looking at me to gauge my reaction, my emotions. They want to know that it’s okay, they are safe and okay. I focused on the positive aspects that they got to have a different teacher, a great teacher, in the afternoon and continue to have me on most days just like they are used to.
I shouldn’t have to do this! My son’s teacher and school and principal should have known how to do their job so that I could do mine; however, the truth of the matter is that I have to pick him. I can no longer educate others at the expense of my own.
Today, I hope the healing begins.