Sunday, December 21, 2008

Safe Secrets

It's vacation! Blissful, glorious, sweet-loving, aboutfuckingtime VACATION. I have two weeks with my family now. Sugar cookies and snow forts await! Hallelujah and Amen. It's vacation.

Being a fifth grade teacher is a rewarding, challenging, funny, quirky, and never boring gig for me. Generally, I love what I do because each day brings me rewards I could never dream of. You see, the people I share my space with are some of the most earnest on the planet. They've been ON the planet for a mere ten or eleven years, which sometimes leaves them slightly awkward, but always earnest.

My charges really do want to do the right thing, they are endlessly curious about the world, they are fascinated by the intricacies of relationships, power, poetry, prime numbers and their changing bodies. They ask beautiful questions. They desperately want to succeed, both for themselves and for the acceptance of those around them.

Fifth graders sometimes smell like hell and they are CONSTANTLY falling out of their chairs. They pretty much refuse to raise their hands before they speak, or wash them before they eat. They couldn't walk in a line if their lives depended on it. To a fifth grader, THIS IS TALKING QUIETLY!!!!! and the idea of waiting for the teacher to stop teaching before you sharpen a pencil is completely preposterous. They rarely throw anything away (even their dirty tissues), yet they'll claim that they accidentally threw away last night's homework. A fifth grader can weep for a week because of a dying hamster. They play with dolls and Facebook, experiment with Scrabble and spin the bottle. They are trying to not be too afraid to stay at home alone, and they are thrilled when they lose a tooth because the toothfairy might come for a visit. Fifth graders are starting to notice pimples, training bras, skills and popularity in each other. My fifth graders actually fight with each other over the opportunity to help me when I ask for it.

My students and I have an understanding. It is an unspoken, sacred agreement between parties: I won't blow their cover if they won't blow mine.

I know that they are scared, sometimes lonely and insecure. I know how desperately they want to grow up gracefully. I know how terrified they are of being embarrassed, how tenuously they stand in their in-betweenness. I will guard their secret with my life. In return, they pretend I'm hip (I need this just as desperately). They laugh at my jokes and feign interest when I teach them what a preposition is. They know mine is a sometimes grueling and thankless job (entertaining them), but they hang on like champions. Somehow, I think they may know that I share their human condition; I am just as desperate to feel important. Useful. Our relationship is symbiotic, like the clown fish and the poisonous coral.

I am grateful to these kiddos ~ and I am so very proud to know them. They have great courage, and it shows every day as they take risks and try to grow up just a little bit more.

But, I am really REALLY glad to be away from them for a couple of weeks, too. I'm luxuriating in my sweet-smelling, quiet, pencil sharpener-free home with my own quirky little ones. Hallelujah and Amen. It's vacation.

15 comments:

Vodka Mom said...

I absolutely ADORED that post. I taught fifth grade for TEN years. I really loved it. However, it was DAMN hard work.

DCD said...

I kind of wish I could travel to you and VM's schools and put my kids in your classes. You are both such obviously great teachers. A wonderful post that makes me wonder what my little boy will be like when he is a big boy.

Jen W said...

Your post brought back so many memories of that awkward in between time when you want to grow up, but you still like being young.

anymommy said...

Perfectly descriptive. I'm there again. I'm scared for when my kids are there. You're done for a couple of weeks!! Hope it's filled with love and joy.

Possibly Moving Mom said...

Your blog is just the greatest!

We're not certain of our school situation next year. My daughter is in the 4th grade right now. Ah, how I wish she could be in your class. You "get" things.

Zip n Tizzy said...

You must be such a wonderful teacher!
That is a great age isn't it? Such thinking people, yet not yet anxsty and too insecure to express their thoughts, whatever those thoughts may be.

rowan said...

You make me miss teaching...

Chloie said...

I've always dreamed of teaching kids... I was a college instructor for a few years but I'm sure that's not as fun as gradeschool teaching.

justlori2day said...

I am now realizing that my 5th grader is normal! Because half of what you just described is so her!

I am so glad that you enjoy your days with them! And your days away.

Merry Christmas!

Ms Picket To You said...

is this not an also excellent metaphor for parenting? especially the clown fish and the poisonous coral, roles that can be switched at ANY time?

i promise not to sharpen pencils when you teach me the next new thing.

smiles4u said...

What a great post. Being a teacher is a lot of work...being a good teacher is even more work. Thank you for all that you do each day to teach and be there for your students. I am glad that your getting a break though. It's good to get refreshed and catch your breath, when your so busy giving out every day!

heartatpreschool said...

Can you be my kids' teacher? Please?

jen said...

ah... vacation.
me too.

Laura said...

The ninth graders I teach have all of the negative habits, but none of the positive. They are trying to bring me down! Look, she made a mistake. Look, she lost my paper. Look, she forgot what she was going to say. Yes, vacation, it is wonderful.

Joanne said...

That is such a great post. Sounds like you really understand fifth graders.

Hope you enjoying your Christmas vacation. :)

I wandered over to your post from SITS.