I posted an article on FB recently about not quitting teaching. It’s solid how-to-calm-your-self-down advice, but I posted it mostly as reminder that I am not the only one who sometimes fantasizes about hanging up my tote bags and becoming a barista or maybe just a bartender. Unfortunately, there’s no advice column that can save you from the frustrations of teaching because to be honest the not-going-to-quit moments come from my kids and their families not from life coaches. Like today. After being at school for 12hrs on four hours of sleep, a lot coffee, 3 chocolate peanut butter cups, a handful of tortilla chips and an unfortunately sized scoop of overly salty guacamole, I was cleaning up from our family night. All the families were buttoning up coats and making their way out the door into the dark, blustery evening. One mama made her way towards the table I was cleaning and since this was the furthest direction away from the exit she could have gone, I felt obligated to politely chat.
As an introvert working in a highly extroverted profession, I was beyond done with interacting, but I was trying hard to not show how exhausted I was really feeling. As we talked a small exuberant young boy ran up and side hugged me. He had also been at school for 12 hours at this point, but his version of tired looked slightly more animated and hyper than mine. “Who is this?!” She wanted to know. I laughed and then paused while my brain sluggishly searched for the words I wanted in English. I had been translating my teaching partner’s English into my Spanish all night, and in the moment I was struggling to do the reverse. “That’s my son” I finally managed. Her face brightened “Oh! All this time I have seen you, and I didn’t know you had a child. Does he go here?” I nodded. “Yes, he’s in second grade” I confirmed. More excited now, she exclaimed: “That’s good news!” I stopped the absentminded robotic clearing of the table and side-eyed her. Then she sweetly, awkwardly, shyly explained: “I was hoping you would be here next year to be my daughter’s teacher…” I stood up. “And since… you have a son in school here …it’s …well maybe it’s more likely that you will …stay.” And then quieter and trailing off she added: “I hope…” and looked at me expectantly. I looked at her thoughtfully for a moment.
Last year, my duty spot for most of the year was in front of the school in the morning. I loved it because I got to see many of the kids and their families in their most real, unfiltered early morning interactions. I had the privilege of being one of the first non-family members they saw. I stood on the edge of the crosswalk and smiled and waved in the cold and the rain and the sun. I translated for families when it was too early for anyone in the office to help, and I joked around with kids and my co-workers as we waited for the school day to start.
My morning spot is different now. I hang out in the back by the portables with the 5th and 6th graders. It’s still a pretty nice way to start the day, but I interact with the families a lot less because big kids tend to walk to school by themselves. Still, this mom remembers me. She saw me in the mornings when she walked her daughter to school and even though she has never seen me teach or had a child in my class, she decided for whatever reason that I am the kind of person she wants to teach her daughter. Not only that but, she felt so strongly about it that she felt it necessary to tell me. And in that moment it was everything I needed to hear.
I replied slowly: “I’m not going anywhere,” and I smiled like I do every morning when my students arrive.