All I could think on Monday was, "Why didn't people warn me about how hard teaching is?" Problem: It had nothing to do with classroom management, students being challenging, or lesson planning. It really had nothing to do with "teaching" but was more about all the other little things that aren't necessarily blatant in our job descriptions. It was nothing I had ever experienced before in three and a half years.
Teaching has been a place for me to build special relationships with amazing children. Some of those children drive me nuts and some of those children love me so much that they call me mom (some of those children are one and the same). Sometimes I even feel like their moms. I cheer for them at sporting events and applaud at their concerts. I buy all their fundraising junk and try to sell it to my friends. I'm a parent to teenagers at 24 years old. CRAY.
But loving teenagers unconditionally is a frightful place when you know heartache is a possibility.
On Monday, I found out that one of my students currently enrolled in my class died over the weekend. He had been fighting his most recent battle with leukemia since early December. He was enrolled in my advisory last school year during the spring semester and later ended up in my Math Models class last fall. I was thrilled to have him in class again and to have the opportunity to get to know him better.
Other students have passed away since I started teaching, but this was a first for me and my classroom. I'm not really sure what the best way is to find out about terrible news, but finding out about his death from a student who saw it on Instagram in the middle of class was not ideal. I was instantaneously a mess. *Connie, weeping in front of your students will not help the situation. Get it together!* Thankfully I waited until Tuesday to talk to the class he was in; I didn't cry, but it was close.
I'm not sure if I didn't realize losing one of my babies would be hard, or if I just didn't let myself think about it. Probably the latter. I now know first hand what it's like and this is your official warning: losing a student is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to experience. I hope I never have to experience it again because I love my kids more than I realized.
It's a love that makes my heart hurt when they are hurting and rejoice when they are rejoicing. It has helped me understand how the Lord feels when we face troubling things, reject His plan, or celebrate His perfection. His love is much more perfect than the love I have for my kids, but I can see how much more he hurts and rejoices in our situations, good and bad.
His funeral was Thursday, and I was glad I was able to go. As I drove up and saw the hearse, the tears were uncontrollable as they are now as I write this. The funeral was full on Catholic mass in Spanish, so I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Honestly, it didn't matter. His mom was weeping and hurting along with his family. I know how much I've been hurting this week, and it doesn't even compare to the love his mother has for him and how much his family will miss him.
I was pleased that his heart came through during the funeral even with the language barrier. Since he knew he was going to die, he had written letters to his mother and siblings to be read. I understood bits and pieces, and the heart that I had seen in my classroom was the same loving spirit I heard on Thursday.
I will miss him, but more importantly his life will have an effect on how I behave. Life is so short and the way I treat my students makes a huge impact on their lives. Every day with them is a gift, and I want to use each moment to be a positive influence in their lives. His death made me want to love on my kids even more and be more patient with them since my time with them is so temporary.
My challenge to you:
1. Love your kids a little more than you do right now
2. Be more patient with them because they are kids after all
3. Be a positive influence in their lives, you might be the only one
It's hard to love them as much as I do knowing that my heart can be so easily broken, but I wouldn't change it for anything.