There’s this event at my school in which, for positive behavior, students can earn tickets to try and win the reward of giving a pie in the face to teachers willing to participate. I was more than willing to participate in this event, and I listed myself among the teachers ready to get messy. When I started talking the event up to my students, they were not at all excited to know my name would be there. One cried, and three others expressed how they would do their best to earn tickets, but there was no way they would vote for me. I told them, “Guys, I volunteered! I’d love a pie in the face!” and was still told, “Nope. Not for you.”
Shockingly, I was incredibly upset.
In my usual way, I decided to give myself some space on this and really think about what it was that was bothering me. Even I know that this couldn’t actually be about the pie. So, I gave myself the room and I waited and I watched. I knew it would become clear eventually. I didn’t think about it too actively on the day of the pie-ing event, so when a colleague asked me, “Why did you even want to get pied?” I was surprised when I had an answer for her.
All year, my kids have been sort of beyond amazing. When they met me in August, I had a wound vacuum- a big, loud one with super visible tubing coming around my body. The had a few questions, but they handled it like rock stars. When I got another wound vacuum, they were pissed off, but handled it, too. It was actually wonderful to see their empathy and to see them get so angry on my behalf. They wanted me healed and were not afraid of their feelings around it. They have seen me unable to erase or write on certain parts of the board because I cannot stretch that far. They’ve been there for me when I asked them to help me out with lifting items or reaching things. Now that it is summer and I am wearing shorter or even no sleeves, they’ve told me they can see my scarring and that, while it looks scary to them, they don’t mind seeing it because they know I’m ok. They have hugged me gently but fiercely and told me that they love that they can hear my heartbeat. They have called me a warrior.
I’m telling you: these kids? Amazing.
How is this connected? Because I realized that they’re still worried about me. They still think I can’t handle things. They think that a pie in the face would be too much for me. It’s sweet and wonderful and caring and lovely. Also, I hate it. I want them to see me as that warrior they say I am. I want to be not just a person they can trust with their hearts, but I want to be that strong person, too. I want to be healed and whole and a rock. I want to be myself.
All year I have worried that I am not giving these kids what they need because of my illness and how I have been fighting all year long. I look at my classroom and I see what I didn’t do. I look in my grade book or plan book and see the activities I could have done, but just didn’t have the energy for. I see the other classes go outside to spend a few minutes in the sun and know I just cannot do it, cannot climb up and down the stairs one more time and walk across and back from the field. I worry that my kids missed out. I worry.
But then I realize that they DO call me a warrior. They DO hug me. They DO help me- because of love. So, I will let the lack of pie in my face go. I will force myself to stop being sad about it and recognize it for what it is- not my kids taking care of me because I’m weak, but my kids taking care of me because they see someone they love needing support and they can give it.
These kids will always be a special class to me. They were my first in a new school, a new state, a new type of schooling. They were my healing class. The class who taught me that I can do this, even when it feels too hard. I am going to hate saying goodbye.