I find that there are basically two responses I get from people who learn for the first time that I’m a teacher of 8th grade students.  One:  they tell me it takes a “special person” to teach kids that age and that I’m basically going to heaven just for showing up.  Or two:  they tell me I’ve got the best job in the world, what with all that time off and all.

Neither are exactly correct.  But for the record I still love this work I do, even when it melts and stirs my brain.

In the past two weeks alone:

To an empty room and computer screen, when a colleague emailed for help covering her (combined with another grade and enormous) class, on the day after a schoolwide Project Day and four days before Christmas break:  “I just can’t.”

Did you just ask Ethan if he thought you should put that in your mouth?” This, to a young man holding a plastic dreidl that had been used all day long.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t in the mood to listen to you.”  To a student who was telling me how hard it was to walk her dog around the block so her mother could change her clothes, finish making dinner and give her little brother a bath.

In response to this, for the 19th time this week – when is Christmas? – I said, “Mary Mother of God.  It’s the same day it has always been.  Maybe it changed this year, though, just to confuse us all.  Or because GLOBAL.  WARMING.”

Upon overhearing a boy in my class say I shot a moose with my bare hands!  I responded, “where do you keep your cape?”

It’s a fun thing these days to cram classmates in lockers, if they can fit.  Doesn’t that sound fun for everyone?  To a young man doing the shoving, and who will certainly be driving a car in the next 18 months, I said “people. locker. no. why. bad.”  

During directions for a class activity, a boy asked me if he could go to his locker for a piece of gum.  I responded “just ask the 8 ball on my desk and hope for the best.” 

In searching for a box of tissues I thought existed, I said to a classroom full:  “where are those, like, pieces of paper you put boogers in?”

To a student who needed help making a bow for a project:  “just make a loophole and your problems are solved.” 

To a colleague who reminded me I had lunchroom duty later in the day:  “Make me.”  

Folks, I’m tired in a lovely way.  I’m tired in the way you climb into bed at night and think just half a thought before drifting off – and that thought sounds something like this: life is beautiful and …