Friday, January 13, 2012

Identity Crisis

So I'm not standing in front of my own classroom anymore. I'm proud to be a teacher-on-loan to my state's department of education (emphasis on teacher.) I'm still very connected to my identity as a teacher, so much so that I tend to tell my teacher stories in present tense (when I assign homework, I....) and so on.

But the truth is I don't have my own students now, and the last ones I officially taught are now eighth graders. Luckily, I'm still based at my school and so I still get to see middle schoolers and my colleagues. And sometimes I find myself walking down the hallways of the school, just inhaling.

Because the truth is that I miss them, every one of them, every day. I miss how they're so goofy that my days were full of laughter. I miss them caring so, so much for the teacher that they made the bad days better and the sad days endurable. I miss them so much that sometimes I forget that the students in my school aren't mine.

I tend to lay my hand on their shoulders as I pass them in the hallway: "Excuse me, honey," and I'm confused when there's no reaction. There's no "Hey, Mrs. Rigsbee!" along with hugs and squeals and "let-me-tell-you-what-happened" stories. Yesterday I was so excited to be invited to a science classroom - I was a guest judge for some amazing project presentations! I stood at the front of the room waiting for instructions when a student said, "I like your shirt." I started explaining how the shirt was one of the first "spirit gear" shirts sold by our school, but I was interrupted: "Um, I was talking about Mrs. White's shirt."

Ouch. He was talking to his REAL teacher, the one he actually knows and has a relationship with. I had a Personal Pity Party and went on with the judging.

Later, I worked with a couple of students who were testing, and I used the Literacy Coach's office. Probably not the best idea. I had forgotten that I donated (loaned?) all of my classroom library to the Literacy Coach when I packed up my classroom. I glanced over at the bookcase and saw my entire career lined up on shelves.

There sat Martin Luther King, The Peaceful Warrior. If I had students, we'd be reading that now and writing our Dream Speeches. I saw Master Puppeteer and remembered a grade level unit we did that included Japanese kite flying, origami, and a trip to a Japanese restaurant. I saw the Bluford series and Sharon Draper books like Forged by Fire and Tears of a Tiger, all books that I used in my remedial reading classes - high interest books for my middle schoolers - chosen with care...because I cared.

So...all this is to say...if you find that you are standing in front of a classroom of children every day, remember that you're doing the most important job there is. Cherish those faces looking back at you, and embrace those relationships.

You'd miss it if you were gone...


Anonymous said...

I have no idea how I found your blog...But I wanted to say thanks, as I look to getting out of the classroom and doing what you're doing in the next few years, it was good to hear your perspective...I LOVE my 8th graders and I plan to smile, laugh, write a little harder with them tomorrow :)

Cindi Rigsbee said...

Thanks, Rachel. I was a little nervous to put my whining, pitiful self out there like that. But it's worth it to think of you smiling "harder" at 8th graders tomorrow. I HEART 8th graders.

jwhite said...

You can come back to my classroom anytime and show your cool spirit wear all over the place. Feel free to come by and breathe in deep. (Just don't come after recess, you might not want to breathe too deep then) My students appreciated (and so did I) the feedback you gave them during your time as a judge!

-Mrs. White

hou said...

I had a Personal Pity Party and went on with the judging.

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