Friday, February 22, 2013

Goodbye Breaks my Heart

“But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go - we’ll eat you up - we love you so!”
And Max said, “No!”
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.” 

I care about all of my students. Some I enjoy teaching because they are smart, some because they are funny, some because they are horrible and I consider it a challenge to draw them out.  Some I care about because they need someone to care about them.  I have a few students who, for any combination of the above stated reasons, steal my heart and when I have to say goodbye to them, it hurts.

Unfortunately, we have a very transient population.  I have students leaving and new ones coming in all the time.  No matter what, I have to say good-bye to them when they graduate. A few weeks into the school year, a student I will call Brenden joined my class.  He was rambunctious, to be sure.  He wasn't disrespectful at all, just kind of challenging to get focused to complete his work.  One time, he started making random mooing noises in class.  They were shockingly realistic.  It was incredibly amusing. That said, it was really disruptive.  Finally, one day I said,

"Hey Brenden, you know, I grew up going to my grandmother's farm every summer.  She had cows and so I am really good at cow noises, too. So on Monday, you are going to stay after school for detention and you and I are going to moo together until you get it out of your system."

We did just that.  For about 5 minutes.  Then we talked.  Brenden is from Puerto Rico.  He has moved 15 times in the last 5 years.  He talked about how hard it is to move, make new friends, and then experience the loss of saying good-bye over and over. His mother had returned to Puerto Rico to care for her ailing parents and so he was staying with a friend. He said, "Please don't think I am a bad kid.  Sometimes I just make bad choices."  My heart melted.  Then I drove him home.

From that point on, Brenden became really enjoyable to teach.  He tried to work hard for me and I let him be his crazy self just enough to let him have fun.   We break for lunch a quarter of the way through class and often he stayed behind to have lunch with me.  We talked about Saturday Night Live and he would show me other silly videos on Youtube that made us both laugh. I started referring to him as "Moo Moo," and he loved it.

Last month, Brenden was incredibly withdrawn in class.    I asked him if he wanted to talk.  When everyone else filed out for lunch, he stayed at his desk.  When he looked up, big tears were running down his face.  His mother had decided that they needed to move back to Puerto Rico permanently.  I immediately thought of asking my husband if we could keep him with us or doing whatever necessary not to only prevent him from having to go through moving again, but to avoid my own pain of saying goodbye. 

Brenden's last day was on Thursday.  He must have come by between every class to give me a hug.  At one point someone said, "Man, you are moving? Why didn't you tell me?"  I knew why. Telling people is painful.  Saying goodbye is painful--much easier to just slip away.

At the end of the day, he came to hug me one more time.  I wanted to cry, but I didn't.  I knew that would make it so much worse for him.  So I smiled, and I got his email address and I told him to keep in touch and that maybe one day we will come visit him in Puerto Rico.  I can't imagine what my 5th period will be like without him.  I can't imagine what my 5th period would have been like, if I hadn't kept him after school that day for our mooing session.  It just shows that every kid has a story and sometimes, we as teachers get to be a part of that story in a really meaningful way.  Even if it is only for a very short time.

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