February 12, 2009 §
These are my students. I spend every day, from 8:45-3:45 pm, in a small room with them. They make me laugh every single day. They also make me very tired. In this class are some of the smartest children I have ever met. Yes, my class is the gifted class, but the two students who stand out the most, Sergio and Karidjata, are not currently classified as gifted. These children amaze me. Sergio calls himself the “Mexican Harry Potter” and manages to “discover” mathematical concepts usually a week before I actually teach them. When we were learning fractions, he discovered equivalent fractions before we even got there. When we were learning about electricity and magnetism, he asked if he could borrow a battery because he wanted to make a circuit at home and show his father, who is a Mexican immigrant who works in construction.
The other day, Karidjata was walking next to me in line on the way to recess and she said, “Ms. LaPrade–over winter break I was thinking about math…and I realized that you could take any word in the alphabet and do math with it…addition, subtraction, multiplication, division..you just need to think of the alphabet and how every letter in the alphabet is in order and has a place in order. Then you could do math with the letters in the word by thinking of that order.” I was blown away. This girl, by the way, came to the U.S. as a refugee from Sierra Leone. Her logical reasoning and out-of-the-box thinking would blow anyone away, though she still struggles to spell basic words.
My first two years of teaching the exhaustion got to me so much that I took more “mental health days” than I would like to admit. Knowing that I am going to be done with teaching for the foreseeable future in a few months, I am having a very difficult time leaving my students for even a day (which is necessary from time to time). Today, however, I had to leave them with a sub. I imagine that playing hooky from teaching is very different than taking a “sick day” when you have a normal job–the rest that I get is pretty much overshadowed by the anxiety that lingers in the back of my head all day as I wonder about what my students are doing, if they are behaving, if they are learning. It makes taking a day off from teaching more hassle than its worth.
I know this will definitely be my last year as a teacher for quite awhile (I don’t know where life will lead me, but I would love to go back to teaching at some point). Leaving my students is going to be very hard. But I May I will do it. I will pack up my classroom into two plastic crates and I will walk out of Challenger School forever. And then the next phase of my life will begin…stay tuned.