The gifts trickle in like unexpected guests. They are often trivial, perhaps items a parent picked up at the dollar store, or store-bought popcorn repackaged with a ribbon.
The gifts mean the world to me. It means I'm just their teacher, but a teacher worthy of a small Christmas remembrance.
James walked in with a box of homemade cut-out sugar cookies he carried around in a box, dispersing to his friends. There was a sweetly wrapped bundle for me and for my teaching partner.
Josh brought a loaf of his father's homemade bread. Taylor brought a giant kitkat bar.
The essential bottom line requirement is loving the students no matter what, and when they give back the smallest iota, we take it as the best thing in the world. A teacher will never take the slightest gift, nudge or change for granted.
Today's final consisted of a short presentation of students' research papers. Each student was allotted a time to share his or her research.
One of the first presenters showed a short clip on prosthetics. When I asked the student what drew him to this research, he recalled when he had a biking accident and couldn't walk; he added, "It's because we don't know how important something is until it's not there anymore."
Melina gave us a short presentation on the education necessities of becoming a nurse. When I asked her what drew her to the profession, she recalled a time when she was at girls' camp and stayed up the whole night caring for a sick friend--and loved it.
Christian's research was on the creation of the TSA and a consequent report card. We learned the head of TSA took home 5.4 million in pay and when tested by their own affiliates, the officers failed to find threats 96% of the time. He'd stood in too many long TSA lines--his research was spurned by a distaste for the TSA.
Then there was Jared, who stood up to present and a few of his fellow students asked, "Wasn't that your research project in 9th grade?"
"Yes," he answered, "but I'm expanding on it. Last night I wrote 14 pages."
Okay. We'll have to hope and trust.
Again, it is the little, little things that often matter the most.
I texted my teaching partner and told her one of the best things about the whole day was that Joseph actually cared about his grade. For the first time ever, he came up after class and asked me how his presentation was. This was EPIC!
The day ended with a student coming up to me and asking, "How can I get my grade up?"
I looked at the grades and saw he was in deep trouble. But he'd missed the school wide deadline for turning in all semester-end work. He seemed resolved but was still going to send an email to the other teacher. I sent her a heads-up warning. She noticed what I hadn't, and it was indeed the slightest nod of improvement. "You're right about late work," she responded, "I'm happy he came to us instead of us going to him."
He still hadn't done the work, but to us it was the itty bitty improvement that sent joy through our teacher hearts. It's really the little things that matter like subtle shifts in the earth's core that eventually bring about an earthquake-- a cookie, a miniature cactus, a simple question, "How was my presentation?" from a boy who's never cared--it offers hope that one day, they'll be high school graduates who do well in college, who do well in life.