I’ve cried in my classroom nine times that I remember.
Once the fifth week of school my first year when my class talked about me behind my back (and by behind my back I mean in front of my face in a circle while I sat in the middle of the room hating myself) and once when a student stole my phone… and twice in that situation’s aftermath. Once a few tears slipped out when I was so proud I couldn’t keep them in and once when I was so angry I felt like I was on fire. I cried sobbed twice in one day when I got a disciplinary write up and another time when a parent told me over the phone “I might go to jail tonight” for how hard she would beat her son for his behavior. I’ve cried probably four times more than that at home, three times more than that in my car, and two times in the hallway but that doesn’t count because… it just doesn’t. Everyone cries in the hall.
Now, I’m sitting here at 10:30 on a Monday night after 14 hours at school crying because I’m so sad.
I’ve cried in my classroom nine times that I remember. I’ve cried in my classroom ten times that I remember. I’m crying because, what happened was, there be 37 pictures of my students hangin up in that classroom… as the nugs would say.
They’re framed and I made sure every nugget was in at least one and now I’m sitting here on the eve of what will be my last semester with my most favorite people, my original 30, ugly crying all over my teacher desk because all around me I see the faces of the people I love the most with new eyes: Eyes of gratitude for offering me the privilege of being their teacher, eyes of wonder that we made it out alive and mostly forgiving of the one broken nose sustained at recess and that paint that splattered from that volcano experiment that one time last spring.
Everywhere I go I see the world with new eyes because of them.
Without them I wouldn’t see the systemic racism that now blinds me. I wouldn’t seek to open my eyes to injustice. I wouldn’t turn my face towards hope and believe that there is in fact, without a doubt, most assuredly, love and goodness in the heart of every child.
Everywhere I go I see them.
I see them in Mike Brown and Eric Garner. In President Obama and Sonia Sotomayor. In people dancing and singing, in a family that shares a meal, in the nameless people who drive by me on Highway 63, I see them. I look into their faces and I wonder why are you celebrating, why are you hurting, what are you talking about, where are you going? I watch them live lives beyond me and I am filled with gratitude that they are alive and well and thrown down in anguish when I am told another man, woman, or child has been killed. Do you see them?
Everywhere I go I see them. Everywhere.
I see them in love. I see them in team. I see them in grit. I see them in joy. I see them in patience. I see them in sacrifice. I see them in these things because in their eyes they gave it and in their eyes they demanded it. In their eyes…
Everywhere I go I try to see what they see.
I used to look at myself in the mirror and ask how people could look at me because I was so ugly and now I see myself with their eyes: “We love your hair, Ms. Marx. Can you wear it down tomorrow?… You really nice today… We like when you smile…. You is kind….” I used to be embarrassed for people to see me because I knew that I had nothing to say and now I see the teacher they willed me to be that first day they sat there and waited and stared, their eyes pleading: “Teacher. Come on!”
Teacher. I see a teacher now. Everywhere I go I am a teacher.
Tonight, I am a teacher who is tired and sad at school. I see them frozen in time, trapped in those frames, knowing that in a few months, this will be the only place I will see them. And this makes me cry.
I know that I’ve cried in this classroom more than nine ten times but I just can’t remember anymore. More than leaving and saying goodbye this is what makes me sad the most… the not remembering. What if I just can’t remember all of the things I told myself when the bell rang, “I will never forget this moment.” What if I stop remembering to see them?
Wrapped up in the many (hundreds, thousands…) regrets I have as a teacher I think maybe I should have written more down. Written more so I could remember when I can’t see. But I didn’t write. I didn’t write because I’ve hated this year. I’ve hated it cold. And I couldn’t write anything down because the ten-year-old in me demands if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say it at all. So for the last 83 school days in my hatred I didn’t say anything. Didn’t write anything. I didn’t have anything nice to say because I got disillusioned and cold and I stopped seeing my classroom the way that they do. I stopped wanting to see anything at all.
But today, finally today, the ice has broken. I see my nuggets with fresh eyes.
I am tired. And very sad. But I have something nice to say, so I want to say it:
To my 30 originals,
Thank you for looking for more than I thought I could possibly give. Thank you for showing me what I needed to see. Thank you for enlightening me to your struggle. Thank you for seeking only the good. Tonight, I see only love. Promise.