Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer. I think he might’ve been our only decent teacher.

This spring I had the very great pleasure of walking our art teacher through the Harry Potter books. Oh, the texts that she sent me as she raced through them. Oh, the conversations we had. Oh, the ways I listened to her predictions and tried to keep my not-very-good poker face. I even gave her a copy of our predictions, just so she would know exactly what levels of craziness we reached in those heady days of 2007.

It is sometimes hard for me to share my favorite things with the people around me (if they don’t like them, it is a barrier between us, but she and I have deep deep agreement about the Twilight series, so I figured she was safe), but she responded in all the ways I could possibly have hoped: extreme enthusiasm, crazy theories to match our own, and an intense desire to read the series again as soon as she had finished. It was one of the things I will remember about this spring, that gleam in her eye as I would hand her the next book, the texts she sent that simply said things like, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

The kids, of course, have already read Harry Potter, so I had to be satisfied by their excitement for things like Breaking Dawn and The Last Olympian. Not to mention the fact that I lent one of my Very Special Eighth Graders my own personal copy of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and when she handed it back to me, her eyes were wide as she said, “That book was amazing.” Which is also, I believe, what she said about Breaking Dawn, but when it comes to middle schoolers, amazing is about as good as it can possibly get. I will take it.

That is one of the things I love the most about my job – handing a kid the book that he has been waiting for, and hearing his reaction in the days to come. There are people who did those things for me, who handed me the right books and who listened to me talk about them, and those things mattered. I try to remember that when the same girl comes in for the fifth time in one week and I absolutely cannot think of one more thing to give her. It matters that I take the time to look. So I turn to the shelves, hoping something, anything will jump out at me.

This year, one of my personal goals was to speak encouragingly and positively to one student every day. Not just a, “Hi, how are you doing,” kind of positivity, but to let that student know that he or she matters to me. Sometimes it was in a rebuke, when I would take a student aside and say, “You are better than this and I know it and you know it,” and sometimes it was to celebrate a success, and sometimes it was just because I wanted to let them know that I like them a whole lot and I am rooting for them. That they should know that someone is in their corner and cares about what happens to them. It changed the shape of my day, as I looked for those things, as I reached out to the kids. And you can tell that they responded, too.

And now it is the summer. The year limped to an ending with all the testing and retesting that the state requires, and I have my own personal disappointments and apprehensions about what next year will bring. But I also have a sneaking suspicion that what I will remember about this year are the victories – the pride on a student’s face when she received her “library class” award, the way he looked me in the eye when I told him I knew he could act better than that . . . and then he did, the 8th grade boys who moved anything and everything I asked them to, all those students who brought me poems, my Battle of the Books kid whose reading score grew over 10 points this year, the way she glowed when I wrote a good note to her mom, the look on his face when he handed me the book he bought for me at the book fair, talking with all those kids about how awesome The Hunger Games is. They are good kids and I am lucky to work with them. My relationship with them is different than that of a classroom teacher, but they are special to me just the same. It’s good for me to know that. I gave up a job I liked and that I was good at to be with them because I thought I could do it. And I am starting to believe that I can.

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