As previously mentioned, I am surprisingly good at leaving any high emotions of the teaching day at the door, or at least ridding myself of them on the therapeutic drive home. But there are some days when the frustrations remain with me, set to "Continuous Play" in my brain. I find myself replaying dreadful scenes from the day and repeatedly curse crazy parents, or the inventor of whatever technology failed me and thwarted my plans of for the day.
Today was definitely was one of those days, but nothing that a good 40 minutes of speed walking couldn't fix. Even better, as I was in the homestretch of my quasi-workout, I was suddenly reminded of the very best moments of the school day which had occurred first thing in the morning, and had been buried under a load of "junk" meanwhile. How unfortunate the way the burdens of the day had nearly erased a refreshing moment when I was reminded why I love my job! But, no matter, the good memory was salvaged!
My student, Leon, should be the star of the next movie about a mischievous, but irresistibly adorable child and his antics to befuddle the adults in his life. Also, he could voice Ralph in a re-make of the movie "The Mouse and the Motorcycle." He is physically on par for a seven year old, and his emotional capabilities are not far behind.
That's why I wasn't all too surprised when he came into first period today proudly clutching a small, sort of dirty stuffed dog. Knowing Leon's propensity to throw mini temper tantrums when he's not getting his way, I began to slowly and tactfully lead him to the conclusion that stuffed animals--even cute stuffed pugs named Indiana Jones (Indy for short) were not appropriate in middle school. Whether Leon was fully listening or not was unclear as he removed his glasses, put them on Indy and began making him dance to a cheerful little tune.
A polite hand went up at the other side of the room.
"Uh, Miss T?" Westin chimed in. "I think I have something that might help Leon with this situation."
Having already proven himself incredibly articulate and profound for a 6th grader, I welcomed Westin's input.
"Well, when I wore my 'My Little Pony' belt to school yesterday..."
"...well, I got some nasty comments, but I just said to myself 'you know, I don't care because, you know, haters gonna hate..."
My eyes shot to the three other adults in the room hoping I was transmitting the message: Is this a dream come true, or what?
Out loud, I simply said, "Haters going to hate". Instantly, I regretted my little too precise, white bread pronunciation of the saying, but figured I safe in this room.
Au contraire. Of all people it was Leon, still loving on his stuffed animal at his desk, who corrected me.
"It's haters gonna hate. You have to say it right."
Was I really just out-streeted by a kid with a plush toy and a "Pony" belt.
After the initial shock at this interesting turn in events, the class launched into a fruitful conversation about the fine line between being unique or young at heart, and setting yourself up to be a target and undesired by your peers. The students were surprisingly receptive to the information; some of them clearly craved it as it were groundbreaking for their social lives. My heart began to break when students earnestly raised concerns about their inability to make friends, or their awareness that they just weren't well-liked by most students. But there was such joy in being able to begin unpacking this scary new world for them. This was what I had set out to do in my job: help the helpless--those not running on all cylinders from the start.
And God bless these kids, they're starving for the basics, right now. They're just peeking into the world of social norms for the first time to find out that the people you play on X-BOX Live are not your real friends, and failing to bathe will ruin your relationships with others.
Sometimes it's refreshing to get back to the basics, but being reminded that even then, haters STILL gonna hate.