For the 28th consecutive year, I've unlocked my classroom door to begin preparing for the new school year. My summer is over (we are a year round district) and I'm ready to roll.
It always makes me a little nostalgic to walk in for the first time in a new year. I think of all the literally thousands of middle schoolers I have taught, some of whom are now my colleagues.
I think of those who have gone on to smashingly successful lives and careers, and those who haven't.
I remember Johnny Joe, a doughboy of a teenager. He was his mama's only son and she spoiled him. She disappeared from his life to pursue her addictions just before I got him. He gravitated toward women teachers. I lost track of him after he went to high school, only to see his picture and name as the lead in a story about how he'd been arrested for a senseless murder he'd confessed to. I cried for hours the day he was executed several years later.
I think about Troy, who was such a perfectionist. He loved to argue and debate the finer points of literature. He questioned everything, a trait that is exasperating at times, but is also the sign of a great thinker. He is now the senior pastor of a very large church in a very large city.
I smile to think of Wesley, whose dad dropped him off at school every morning on a tractor, and Jesse, who rode his horse to school on fair weather days (we are a very rural district). They also make me recall Andrew, who rode a bladeless riding lawn mower to school. Although he never went faster than 3 mph, he followed his mom's instructions to wear a helmet.
I think about Rebekah, the shy girl who came alive in her journal writing. Her mother told me she'd been concerned about her being so withdrawn until she found her voice and outlet in writing. Today Rebekah is a professional writer, composing music reviews for magazines and newspapers.
I remember Lucy, the very unique girl with a half grin who would speak in only one word snatches. "Water," if she wanted to get a drink, and "Restroom," if she needed to go to the bathroom. I grieved several years later when she died giving birth to her first son. I did chuckle, though, when that son, now in middle school, showed up in my class last year with his mom's half grin and asked, "Water?"
I also recall Brian, a troubled boy who often got into fights and sneered at rules. It really gave me a kick when he showed up at my school as part of an elite SWAT team on career day. My students were open mouthed as he told them, " I was a real jackass when I was your age. I hope you make better decisions than I did." They were delighted when he fastened me into his body armour and helmet and handed me his unloaded automatic rifle to pose for pictures with him.
I think of Donny, who was new to our school when Christmas rolled around. The last day before Christmas break the kids brought baked goods and sweets to share with each other. He showed me little round concoctions he said he'd made with his grandma the night before. When I inquired as to what they were, he answered, "Deer Balls".
I was thinking along the lines of spice balls and Rudolph, so I asked what they were made of. My own jaw dropped when he answered, "Deer testicles".
As I pray the silent blessing I pray everyday in my classroom, I know endless potential and possibilities are soon going to be walking through my door. It can't happen soon enough for me.