Yesterday was a tough one. My husband and I had to say goodbye to our 15-year-old Springer Spaniel, Maggie. She led a beautiful, healthy life, but this week it became clear to us it was time.
Some people might not agree with sharing details like this with students. It’s too personal. It’s uncomfortable or inappropriate. It takes time out of teaching. I think it’s powerful and necessary. I believe in sharing myself with my students. I want them to know me just as I want to know them.
Every Friday we end class with what I call C & C. The C’s stand for “Concerns & Celebrations.” I have four boxes that remain scattered around my room at all times, one for each of my Humanities classes. Beside each box is a small pad of notepaper. At any time throughout the week, students can choose to write a brief message and stick it into their class’s box. At the end of the week, I read all of the messages aloud to the class, which often leads to further discussion and sharing.
The messages include anything students want to share – things they are excited about, upset about, worried about, looking forward to, etc. Sometimes it’s as simple as “I’m excited to go camping with my family this weekend.” And other times they sting a bit more like, “I’m worried about my grandma who is in the hospital right now.”
We all have life happening to us, all the time. It’s easy to forget that, and we don’t have enough opportunities to recognize those things throughout a normal school day. So I build time in to our weeks, and I’ll never stop. The conversations we have are sensitive and powerful. We get to know each other on a more personal level. We have an opportunity to feel heard by those around us. And they look forward to it every week. Each Friday, I have at least a few students watching the clock just waiting to remind me about C & C!
Yesterday my own “concern” to share was about Maggie. They all know Maggie. She’s been to school with me several times this year, and I talk about her often. They all knew she was declining and that she’s been on my mind a lot lately. I do not have kids of my own yet, but yesterday I was reminded of the 70 kids I do have. The hugs, the tears, and the genuine words of sympathy were a beautiful example of the special family we have become. It was my loss, which became a loss for all of us.
Today I am grateful to be able to surround myself with the hearts and minds of young adults who yesterday showed me how much they care about me. I only hope they know how much I return that care and adoration.