Today was as rough day at the office (and not for reasons you might think). Everyday has its share of problems....sick kids, spilled milk, a broken copier, etc... pretty benign stuff in the scope of a day. But today was different. Today the rough day pulled at my heart.
I always say that these kids in the school are "my kids". I feel like I have a connection to each one of them. I am so blessed and fortunate to be even a small part in the lives of these kids. Realistically, when kids reach school age, they spend more time at school than they do at home. Although I am not in every classroom everyday, I do get to interact with the kids everyday. I might be in a classroom, in the cafeteria, outside at arrival or dismissal, patching a kid up with a band aid or just stealing a hug as they walk down the hallway.
I know their families. I know their little siblings. I know the names of their dogs, their grandparents and their fish. I know their parent's cars by sight. I know which kids need an extra hug in the morning and which are too cool for that kind of stuff. I know which kids walk to school. I know where their parents work and which parents are on the job hunt. I try my very best everyday to forge a relationship with these kids. To take a vested interest in their lives so that they will take a vested interest in their school, in their education.
So when one of "my kids" makes a mistake or uses poor judgement, it makes me sad. That happened today. While I can't go in to details of the situation, I will say that my mind shot forward 3 years. I pictured my boys sitting in the Principal's office. I'm not trying to set my boys up for failure here, but everyone makes mistakes. Everyone uses poor judgement at some point in their lives. Everyone wants to fit in with a crowd. Everyone wants to be liked.
At what point do you just offer grace and understanding? At what point do you bring down the hammer of justice? At what point do you tell a student, "It's ok. You made a mistake". Knowing that at that defining moment in their life, they will never make that mistake again. Do you offer grace? Do you serve up consequences? A little of both?
Then you look into their eyes. You see the tears. You see the disappointment in themselves. You see the remorse and the "if I could just go back and undo that moment". You look into their eyes and you see your own kids. Then it clicks. These are my kids.
Now I'm not a Principal anymore. I'm a mom. It hurts me to see my kids so upset with their own behavior. I know they are punishing themselves more than I ever could or would. I want to wrap my arms around them and make the hurt go away. Rub their hair and sooth their tears. Kiss their forehead and tell them how much I love them. Even though they do silly stupid things, I still love the person that they are becoming. Mistakes make us better. Consequences are tough but we learn through these lessons. And yet the tears still come. I absolutely love these kids to the bottom of my toes. Each and every one of them and it breaks my heart when they know my disappointment. They wear it on their shoulders like a heavy vest. I can't do anything to comfort them but they are my kids. I can't hug them (but I do). I can't wipe away their tears (but I do). I can't kiss them on the forehead (but I do). Most of the time I don't even know that I am reacting. It's just a natural instinct. Like pulling your hand away from something hot. It's just an instinct.
I have had so many parents at my school mistake kids for being "mine" that are not mine. "How many kids do you have?", they ask me.
That's what makes my job so hard. I celebrate their successess with them but I also have to participate in their mistakes. It's a constant roller coaster. With 179 kids, I never know what my day is going to hold. Am I going to celebrate a 100% on a spelling test or dish out a consequence for a lapse in judgement? Usually, during the course of a day, several of both. But some consequences are harder than others. When a child sits in my office and is truly remorseful, its hard to watch without interacting. My natural instinct is to hold that child. To love that child. I would never watch my own child at home go through those emotions without holding them. Hugging them. Wiping the tears away.
My heart spills over with joy and love everyday for these kids. I relish in the smiles, the laughter, the pride that our students take in their work. The admiration these kids have for their teachers. It's so difficult for me to only do half a job. To say but not do. To say but not act.
Tonight I got a sweet surprise. My oldest boy curled up in my lap for a little snuggle time. That does not happen very often these days. He must have known that I needed his 8 year old wisdom.
I love my kids. All of them.