Bittersweet We

Oh my peer,
Your veneer is wearing thin and cracking
The surface informs that underneath,
Underneath is lacking… — REM, “Bittersweet Me”

Today was the type of day where scanning in my District Benchmark tests were not only the high point, but one of my few unabashed smiles of the day: over 2/3 of my students scored “Proficient” or “Advanced” on the assessment.  Considering how the fortnight had gone, this qualified as good news on a bittersweet day.

The past two weeks had been brutal for my students:  two major math assessments, followed by a District Writing assignment, and the aforementioned District Benchmark test. If there was ever a group of people who could have used a nice, easy, unemotional day, it was my students and I today.  But wanting something so badly, doesn’t make it so.

Consider:

  • I had to take Katelyn to finish up her vaccines to enroll her in Kindergarten; upon arriving at her pediatrician’s shot clinic, I found out that not only was she missing her MMR (Measles/Mumps/Rubella), but she was also due for her second dose of Varicella vaccine (Chicken Pox).  Suffice to say, the child was terrified, but when all was said and done, there is something to recommend about a promise to go to Cold Stone Creamery afterwards.
  • My aide was leaving.  A teacher herself, she is working towards her Speech Specialist credential, but worked as an aide to give her more schedule flexibility.  My kids liked her very much, as she had subbed for me a few times during the school year as well.  But a slightly more beneficial job opportunity meant that she was going to move on.  Good news, yes.  Still, she would be missed.
  • Finally, I lost a student today, S…

This was probably the biggest disappointment.  I had logged in to take my attendance when I saw that her name was “NOT ENROLLED” on my computer screen.  I’m not very subtle as it is, and I immediately queried my kids as to whether or not they knew anything.  Just yesterday afternoon, I had given her an envelope informing her parents that she had won my classroom’s monthly academic award for Science.  S. and I had been going back and forth as to the contents of the envelope, since I normally address them “To the parents of/Para los padres de” and therefore try to provide a pleasant surprise when the child gets home.  She wanted to know.  As I walked the kids to the gate, I *refused* to answer her, since I fully expected her to come back today, as she always had done, as she had done since she was a kindergartner.

But she didn’t.

I called the office, and got our attendance secretary on the line.  Yup, she was gone.  Unenrolled the night before, her dad had come in and not only took her out of school, but also didn’t tell S. until just that final moment at the end of the day.  Her stuff, as a matter of fact, was where she left it the day before.  Normally a good-natured child, she generally struck an impassive tone throughout the day.  But according to our attendance secretary, and confirmed later on by my principal, S. was fighting back tears.

Hanging up the phone, I told my students.  Their mood, upbeat as one might expect the day before Spring Break began, was swallowed up in silence.  Those kids closest to her immediately felt bad, and asked if they could take some of her things to her if they saw her over break.  Another group of kids tell me that she had been teased by other kids, and the narrative started sounding like something out of The Hundred Dresses.

Finally, two of my classroom leaders, H. and J., approach me.  They have an explanation:  S.’s parents had apparently lost their house through foreclosure.  They would have to move.  I guess that Spring Break made the most sense as to when to pack, move, and transfer both S. and her 3rd grade brother elsewhere.

S. is a very good student, conscientious and studious.  I know she’s going to land on her feet.  I feel sad that events well beyond her control knocked her off of them in the first place…

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