Words

Tomorrow and Friday are finals days, which means I said goodbye to about half my kids today, as several have waived their math final. It was hard. 

It’s always hard. 

The end-of-year gifts, notes, and kind words simultaneously soften the blow and put salt to the wound.  

One such gift came all the way from Israel. One of my students just returned from a trip there and brought me back a necklace with the Hamsa symbol. She said something to the effect of (I hope I’m not butchering her words): “I know you’re a Christian, but I did research and this symbol isn’t just Jewish; it’s a symbol used in many religions, so I thought it was perfect for you, because you accept everyone.”

I told her I absolutely loved it, mostly because it came from her, and that I would wear it with pride (I’m wearing it now as I type). 

Another sweet young lady gave me a hug at the end of class, thanked me for making math enjoyable, and then handed me a card. In the note, she wrote, “You’ve shown me what it looks like to be a Christian in the workforce.”

It’s interesting: I don’t think this topic has ever come up with either of these girls, and then two comments about it on the same day. 

Yes, I am a Christian. But that’s not something that really comes up in class. I don’t talk about my faith to the class: I find that incredibly unprofessional and also a violation of separation of church and state. It’s ok with me if my kids know I’m Christian. It’s also ok with me if they don’t know. 

I feel my calling is very simple: and that’s to love on a hundred forty kids every day from August to May. It’s to talk to each one of them, every day. It’s to treat them with kindness and respect and inclusion. It’s to put their needs above my own. 

I fail on the daily. 

But I hope I succeed more than I fail. 

And I hope that I can undo some of the damage that has been done in the name of my faith. 

These two girls’ words reminded me why I do what I do. That even though I only have these kids for a year or two–even though we have to part ways–maybe the seeds of love, patience, and acceptance that I attempt to sow are indeed taking root. 

—–

Note: it’s not lost on me that I lead a very priveleged teacher life: the vast majority of my day is spent with kids one or two years ahead in math…kids who are typically not shy about showering you with praise. There are teachers who work much harder than I do who rarely hear a “thank you.” They are my heroes. 

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