The Order of Operations

Coming and Going, Ad Infinitum

I’ve been working full-time. Sort of. Well, a temporary full-time gig became sorta less-temporary but with a break in the middle to force it to be longer term, but in a way that it doesn’t all count as full-time.

So there’s that (whatever the hell that means)

If I may oversimplify a bit:

Minus a handful of odd days (and March Break), I’ve been working with my Grade 7s again since the beginning of March, full-time.

So they’re getting used to me being with them again, and my heart’s getting all tangled up with them again.

And again.

[Now when they show up in the morning and I’m in the room, they’re completely unfazed. No more “Where’s Mr. T? Is he sick?” – just “Good morning, Ms. F”]

And mostly it’s so wonderful to be with them longer (and sorta feels like I never left), but it also sucks because I have to keep extricating myself from them over and over and being pulled back over and over, and it’s all so taxing on my schedule, on my ability to work as an artist, on my emotional state.

I can’t help it – despite the headaches and the exhaustion and the times I want to throw them out the window, I love the f**k outta these damn kids.

So the last few days have been nice.

Because while I was caught up in getting through material and staying awake and not letting the atrocious weather get me down, the kids were realizing that I was going to be leaving them again.

And they noticed.

And they made me feel loved.

On Wednesday, K, a propos of nothing, asked “Ms F, you’re gonna come back right?”

“Well,” I said, “probably – but it depends.”

“But .. you’ll visit us, right?” she asked, seemingly unconcerned with the complexity of the real-life situation.
“Well, I mean, you’ll probably see me at school regardless, filling in for either Mr. T or one of your other teachers. But there’s also a chance that I get a job like this one that goes until the end of the year with another class, in which case, you won’t see me.”

“We’ll MURDER THEM” one girl said under her breath as I was finishing my sentence.

There was a pause where I looked at her, bewildered, and she giggled cutely.

“E … did you just say you’ll murder them?”

She beamed and nodded.

K explained E’s intention matter-of-factly with her sing-songy voice: “It’s just, you know, if you get a job with another class, we’ll have to kill them! Because if they’re all dead, then they won’t need you at that school anymore, and you can come back here, with us!”

She smiled sweetly and cocked her head to the side. E nodded again, eyes bright.

“Listen guys, as much as I appreciate the sentiment, I can’t really condone, you know, murder …”

We all laughed.

K suddenly shot up in her seat.

“We should start a petition to have you stay here!”

“YEAH!” came cheers from around the class.

“Yeah, sure,” I said, knowing full-well it wouldn’t doing anything but charmed by their moxie and glad to move on from the whole murder thing, “Do you want a piece of lined paper?”

K nodded emphatically.

Keep Ms. F permanently at H____” she wrote at the top, then excitedly scurried around the room, asking her classmates to sign.

After a few minutes, she came up to me at the front of the room and handed me the paper.

“Everybody signed it!” she exclaimed, “but you have to get 7B (my other class) to sign it too! And all your Drama classes!”

“Ok, I’ll do what I can.” I said. I wasn’t intending to share it with anyone else, as I knew signing it was completely pointless.

I looked over their names, scrawled with varying degrees of neatness and officialness down the page – some had printed their full names, some their first names only, a few had actual signatures.

I noticed that one girl had signed for herself and her twin brother, who was in the other class.

“You signed your brother’s name too?” I giggled.

“Yeah,” she said matter-of-factly, “he loves you.”

I blushed.

[Side story: The same girl told me a few weeks prior that her parents were considering starting a petition to keep me in my position as their teacher until the end of the year, since having Mr. T and I switch off and on all the time was disruptive to learning. “Plus,” she added, ” – don’t tell anyone this – … but we like you better.”]

Some kids had made little notes beside their names on the petition – one had written “Please stay :^)”, another one had just written “YEAH” in capital letters.

I took the petition document and dutifully placed it on my desk beside me. Later that day, when the other class was coming in, a girl noticed it sitting beside me; read the title.

“Can I sign this?!” she asked excitedly.

“Sure,” I said, “go ahead.”

“Guys, come sign this petition!” she shouted as the other kids starting filtering into the room. They crowded around my desk, passing the paper between them and excitedly grabbing whatever writing utensils they could find to get their names down.

B, always a character, wrote his name in big letters, and in brackets beside it “B will get mad if she leaves :(”

On Thursday, I used a resource period to join 7C in their Science class. One student was absent, so the kids sitting at the table cluster where he would normally sit beckoned me over to take his place.

I sat down and relaxed into my chair, trying not to distract from the lesson. K, who was sitting across from me, was playing with a tin of thinking putty, and I reached for it and pulled some out so I could play with it myself. (They’re always playing with it in class and it looks so fun but I can’t really do it while I’m the teacher).

A, from across the room, giggled at my nonchalance, and exclaimed “I love Ms F!”

“She’s so chill!” said K, almost as if she were finishing A’s thought.

“Yeah, she’s just like … one of us” said M.

I laughed as I twirled the putty around in my hands, then wordlessly pointed to the teacher at the front of the room, urging them to keep their focus on her.

I sat there playing with putty as the teacher went over a description of mixtures, then she presented an activity to the students that they’d work on in their groups. Rather than joining a group, I put the putty down and circulated around the room so I could support everyone.

I leaned over the sheet that T (one of the “twins” (besties that aren’t actually related) that calls me Mom) and his group were working on. They had some ideas jotted down but seemed to be going in the wrong direction, so I made a suggestion to get them on the right track.

“I get it, you make everything better” said T with mock exasperation, “but can I just do this?”

He smiled impishly at me as I raised an eyebrow and walked away from him slowly.

Later that afternoon, A asked me “Is tomorrow your last day?”

I nodded with resignation, and her eyes widened. Her lip quivered slightly, then more and more as her eyes grew wider – cartoonishly, wordlessly asking me to stay.

“I know.” I said. She hugged me.

Today, the VP at the school told me that in the days since I left, a group of girls had approached her to petition her to hire me full-time.

“I wanted to tell you,” she said, “because we often don’t get to hear the good things.”

“It’s true,” I said, “but they do a pretty good job of making me feel loved.”


The Flip Side

At lunch today, I walked into a cafe where several of my old g7s were sitting. Four or five of them said hi and waved excitedly, and I when I told them we’d get to see each other in the afternoon for French class, I watched many eyes light up.
“For the whole period?!” asked one hopefully.
“Well yeah, of course for the whole period.” I laughed.
Her eyes widened excitedly and she rose out of her seat, then she came running towards me with her arms out and gave me the biggest, firmest hug.
“Thank you! That means I don’t have to do my French presentation!” she exclaimed.
“Oh, is THAT what the hug was for?!” I said, shaking my head. “I thought it was ’cause you were happy I was gonna be your teacher!!”
“Well that too.” she said.
At this point, the man standing in front of me in line turned towards me.
“You’re a teacher?” he asked.
“I’m thinking of doing my Masters in Education.” he said.
“Don’t,” I said, “the market is oversaturated and there are no jobs. Now is not the time – it’s terrible.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked, turning his gaze towards the kids, “It just seems like it would be really fun.”
“It can be when you actually get into a classroom,” I said “IF you ever get in.”
He raised his hand in the direction of the girls and made a little circle with his palm facing them “This part looks amazing.”
I followed his gaze and smiled as I made eye contact with the girls again.
“Yeah,” I said, “it is definitely amazing.”

Gummy Bears & Murder

Last week I wrapped my 3-month period working full-time with my grade 7s. On my last day, I asked one of the classes to share their favourite memories of the time we’d spent together.

[Some necessary context: One boy in the class, B, has a big personality. He’s a nice kid, and his classmates like him (they’re all lovely, and totally supportive of one another), but he’s a bit of a showboat, and clearly likes the sound of his own voice. This is common knowledge, and something we’ve joked about freely in class in good humour – B is totally in on the joke.]

So when I asked them to share their favourite memories, this is what I got:

One girl raised her hand and said “My favourite memory is the time you said it was so quiet without B.” (He was absent the day in question)

I laughed. “Oh yes, that distant memory from so long ago! (it was a day prior) Anything else?”

Another hand: “My favourite memory is when you told B the universe doesn’t revolve around him.”

I cackled. “Yes, that was an important moment for all of us. (At this point I make eye contact with B and raise my eyebrows, and he fake-solemnly nods at me) Anything that doesn’t have to do with B?”

A third hand: “My favourite memory is when we told ghost stories after we got our needles, and you gave us gummy bears!”

“Oh yeah, that’s a great memory!”

I thought we’d moved past the jokes at B’s expense and were getting sentimental. I was wrong.

“My favourite memory is the time B was kind of doing this with his chair (she motions grabbing the sides and rocking side to side) and you pretended you had guns in your holsters and had a showdown with him.”

I cackle again. “Oh yeah, I forgot about that one!”

At this point, the kids all started whistling the old west showdown music. Recognizing they’ve provided me with theme music, I reclaim the wide cowboy stance I took on the day in question, finger guns in invisible holsters. We all laugh together.

“Any other good memories?”

“My favourite memory is when B kissed J’s hand during the vaccinations!”

I shake my head. That one had made quite an impression on the day.

“Anything else I did with you guys?”

One last hand goes up: “My favourite memory is when you killed that guy in front of all of us.”

The class explodes with laughter, and I reluctantly join them. They’re referring to when I was trying to explain the word “allegedly” to them in the legal sense, during our inquiry into Adam Capay. I’d described how even if I’d murdered somebody right there in front of them, in the classroom, with 30 eye witnesses, it could only be said that I “allegedly” murdered that person until proven guilty by a court of law.

“Of course, how could any of us forget THAT one!” I joked.

It wasn’t the warm & fuzzy reception that one might hope for after spending so much time with a bunch of 12 year olds, but being in that room, laughing with them about all the ridiculous things that have happened since October, I couldn’t have asked for a better recap.

“Ok, Group hug!” I shouted, and they all leapt to their feet.

One girl stood outside the group and waited for the giant hug to subside, then approached me alone. J is what you’d call “street smart” – she’s observant, complex, and strong, but isn’t a particularly good student. She talks too much in class, and always hands work in late, if at all.

“I want to hug you even though I’m your least favourite student” she said casually but seriously, opening her arms uncertainly towards me, her head bowed.

I shook my head and pulled her in. “J! Don’t be ridiculous. First of all, I don’t have a least-favourite student. And second of all -“

She cut me off – “It’s B?”

I realized that she was jocularly taunting B, who was standing right beside us and could hear everything we were saying.

I adjusted the end of my sentence almost as quickly as she had interrupted me ” – it’s B!”

He and I smiled widely at each other. I pointed at him and winked, and he laughed and shook his head.

The kids all grabbed their bags, and they left.

#ifuckinglovethesekids #ishouldprobablybefired