It’s All About Relationships

Take Me to the Magic of the Moment

My birthday was on Wednesday, April 18th, and the day started off beautifully. My friend, Liz, was subbing, and she arrived early to bring me Starbucks and donuts and to share them with me. I love to be obnoxiously positive, so that morning I told everyone I met that it was my birthday in the cheeriest voice I could muster with the biggest smile. Sure, I’m old as dirt (I loved telling that to my students when they asked how old I am), but as my late father always said about birthdays, the alternative is worse, so be thankful for each one. I was determined to be thankful for every moment, and the warm sunshine (finally), free coffee, free donuts, and friendship got my day started on the right foot.

On a Glory Night

The high school office secretary, my friend Lea Ann, wished me happy birthday, as did my principal, Justin, before I headed down the hall to my classroom. A few students were already at school, so I cheerily told them it was my birthday as I greeted them. I laid it on thick all morning with all of my students in each class. I enjoyed all of the eye rolls, the exaggerated return greetings, and every single “happy birthday.” I received genuine ones, amused ones, giggly ones, and again, a few eye rolls with smiles. At lunch, one of my yearbook students gave me a Coke Zero as a birthday present, and then, just as I’m feeling like I’m close to the top of the world, my birthday hit a snag.

Where the Children of Tomorrow Share Their Dreams

My 5th hour class started normally, and as I get all of my students settled, test in hand, a silence settles on the room. This is a rare occurrence, this total concentration on a test, so I soaked in the absence of voices, the sound of pencils and pens on paper, and the downloading of information from their brains onto each test. Then it happened. An impatient knock at the door. The office aid, Cain, let me know as he towered above me that if I didn’t get my food out of the office, it would be eaten by the office personnel. Food? I had food? “What?” I respond.  “Mr. Copley said that if you don’t send students up to get the food out of the office, we’re going to eat it.” I’m sure I looked as confused as I felt, but two students immediately jumped up to follow the aid back to the office and retrieve my mystery food.

With You and Me (With You and Me)

The mystery food turned out to be a big cake, cupcakes, and brownies. I looked at it in stunned amazement. It was a lot of food and no explanation for it. Lea Ann, the secretary, had gone home sick, and I didn’t know where the food came from or what I was supposed to do with it. There were several cupcakes, and as 5th hour ended, I gave one student a cupcake for having fought his brain injury (in recovery) in order to complete his test. As he left the room with it, another student, Maddie , saw him and demanded to know where he got it. He directed her toward me, and she burst angrily into the room. She wanted to know why I had the food and why did I give it to that student. When I repeated what had transpired, she stormed off to find the office aid. I followed. What I didn’t know was that my 7th hour class had spent a week and a half planning a surprise party for my birthday, and my principal had just put a large kink in the plans with his impatience to get the food out of his office.

Take Me to the Magic of the Moment

I had upset students and needed to do something to put things right. Luckily, 6th hour is my prep period, so I headed to the library where both the office aid and my novels’ senior were having a very heated conversation. With the help of my friend, Bonnie, the librarian, we made the senior understand that the principal was actually the guilty one, not the office aid (also a senior), and that they could still pull it off since I would stay in the library while they set up the surprise. I promised her I would totally act surprised. If only I had known how easy that would be.

On a Glory Night

I stayed in the library until the bell rang, headed to my room, and was a bit surprised that the lights were turned off and the room was quiet. As I opened the door, my small novels class of 8 students yelled “Surprise!” They were holding a poster board card that they had all signed.  There were balloons and streamers around the room, and the treats plus taquitos were displayed on two of my small blue tables. While the food surprise had been ruined, the rest of the surprise definitely caught me off guard. I was speechless for a few seconds, which is very rare for me. Huh. If I’m totally honest, my eyes may have suddenly become a tad watery, but it cleared up as I looked at the smiling faces. We ate the food and forgave the principal. I played his “I’m sorry!” Vox (walkie talkie app that allows you to leave a voice message, or text message, or send images and gifs) for the class so that they could hear the remorse in his voice. He messed up, and he owned it, so my class was mollified and ready to celebrate my birthday.

Where the Children of Tomorrow Dream Away (Dream Away)

They filled my plate, had me sit at my pub table, and we enjoyed the fruits of their labors. I was full from lunch still, but I ate what they gave me. I enjoyed every bite, as they told me about how hard they worked to plan and execute the surprise. I tried to process the fact that this class threw me a party. This was not an ordinary class party, and officially, it was my very first surprise party. This class. My turbulent class of strong personalities, introverted personalities, lovers of reading and those who took my novels class with the idea of not reading a single book. A couple of the students had repeatedly told me that they didn’t need my class to graduate, and they are correct, but until that moment, I did not realize the power of the relationship I must have with these students. I push them, make them stretch out of their comfort zones, and give them essay tests and the fun multiple choice questions that include “Choose the best answer” and “choose all that apply.” They roll their eyes at me a lot, resist getting to work, and complain when my assignments are not worksheets. I throw tech at them, sketchnotes, and I give them choice. I give them voice. Huh.

In the Wind of Change (In the Wind of Change)

They threw me a surprise party with a cake they ordered, chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, taquitos one student, Maddie, heated up in the Family and Consumer Science (FACS) room across the hall from my room, and a pan of brownies. All of the treats were wonderful, but the best one of all was the relationship I had with these students.  We hear the phrase that “It’s All About Relationships” all of the time in education, and right or wrong, I had done it. Forged relationships with this class. These students. Though I frequently feel like I have failed when this period ends, when I don’t see the students dig into the content eagerly, and I push them to think and create but meet resistance. I see now that I haven’t failed. It’s all about relationships.

Headings are from partial lyrics of the song Wind of Change by the Scorpions.

 

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