Amid the hurley-burley of the new school year each little Lovie shakes out their feathers, stands up on their wobbly legs and knobby knees, and begins to explore their newest nest. We watch them. Let them try out their squawks and their chirps. Let them tear through the day or tiptoe. Let them push away our attempts to connect or to teach, or both. Let them stand closer, move further away, and stand closer again.
All of the Lovies have come despite the fact that our school buses were cut from the budget. Many are walking, some are on public transportation, and many parents have moved their schedules around to get them here. We’ve tracked down bus passes for the poverty-stricken families, and researched bus routes for the less able. They are here though, and hoping to stay.
We assess them, ask questions, try to learn about what they need, what they bring to us, and what they hope to take with them when they go. Some are bigger versions of themselves these first few days. Louder, more forceful, more likely to be the smart ass or to argue. Some are smaller versions of themselves. Quiet, taking up less space, unwilling to take a step out. Both are finding the balance between who they are and who they will be in this classroom this year.
Some have come back from last year. They came in with confidence and smiles, pointing out how they have changed over the Summer. Some are taller, leaner, more serious. Some are still goofy, silly, ready to have fun. They look around the room and point out what has changed or stayed the same. They dutifully report to the new ones that “this shelf used to be there” or “that is where the collection of blue things always is”. They ask for familiar performances of hiccup cures, magically changing white folders to “yellow,” and the swiftness with which a caped teacher might don her cape.
The visitors start to arrive. First two boys from the previous two years who were kicked out of their high school summer school, but plan to “get it together real soon.” Then two more who were successful in summer school, but are nervous about high school starting. The next day, a boy that has been in juvenile hall and came to say hello. He leaves with a quiet “thank you.” They are all tall, and confident, and proud. Eager to use our first names in conversation, but slipping immediately back to Ms. right afterwards. Quiet, looking for familiarity, checking to see if the nest they built in previous years is still there. It is, it just looks a little different.
All of this… it is an amazing way to earn a living.