School started back this week. After extreme cold and maintenance issues, we finally went back two days late - on Thursday.
Kids were coming in and I was working to get them to remember and follow our morning routines. One boy said, "I have something for you, Mr. Wiley." He reached into his backpack and pulled out a teddy bear. "Here, this is for you," he said.
The bear looked like one that had been around for a little while, loved and used.
"Thank you," I said. "Is this for me to look at or to keep?"
"To keep," he said. I wasn't sure what to do - but my heart filled with gratitude and warmth.
"I'll put it here for now," I said and laid the bear on the side of my desk.
The day went on...as days do. At one point, I asked again if the bear was for me to keep. The boy said it was. I told him I would keep it at school, near my desk. But, for the present, I left the bear lying where I had place it originally.
Later in the day, the boy and I were standing near my desk. He touched the bear and said something about it. I asked again if I was to keep it and he said that I was. Then he said, "Sometimes I sleep with this bear." Just stated that fact plainly, no particular emotion in his voice.
I took a couple of deep breaths to think. "You tell me what I should do," I said to him. "I can keep the bear here at school. Or I could take a picture of the bear to look at and you could take him back home. Which would you like for me to do?"
He pondered for a minute and said, "Take a picture."
I dug my phone out of my pocket to snap a photo. I started to tell him where to lay the bear when he hugged it to himself in pose. "Hmm," I said. "Do you want me to take a picture of the bear by itself or with you."
He didn't even ponder. "With me."
I snapped the photo and told him to put the bear in his backpack. He smiled and did just that.
At another point in the day, I don't remember if it was before or after the bear photo, this same boy said, "Mr. Wiley, I missed you. The only reason I came back to school is to see you."
This boy is not one of my best students...in fact he struggles a lot. He's not one of my attention-seekers or non-stop talkers. He's not one of the ones that wants hugs or to tell me his latest adventure. I am surprised by his statement and his amazing gift to me.
So many times since I started this adventure...in fact even this two-day week...I sometimes wonder if much worthwhile is happening in my classroom. I seem to fight every day to get something into their heads (and maybe hearts). I see so many times when I could do better. I hear my tone or my words and know that I have areas that need growth or mastery.
But this evening, going through my photo roll, I see this photo. And I remember that, sometimes, this flawed mid-life new teacher can make an impact.
I guess I'll get back at it for another week.