I'm still sad.
But the world keeps turning.
Students keep needing, learning, and, of course, talking.
There have been a lot of hugs in halls.
A lot of kids crying.
Much anger directed at the only one who isn't here anymore to be mad at.
There has also been a lot of business as usual.
Numerous kids focusing on finals next week, or at least trying to.
Every day this week, I will stay after school to help anyone who needs it.
Not because I wanted to stay.
Because the kids asked me if I would stay every day.
Those are the little minutes that inspire me to stay positive.
Kids who want to learn.
We continue reading Of Mice and Men, rapidly due to time constraints.
Maybe the speed is the key, or maybe the audio, but this year, the kids get it.
I mean, I am constantly surprised by the depth of their understanding.
Some struggle with the finer points, of course.
But most are insightful and interested.
Then, yesterday, I got a request that made a good day even better.
One of my darling girls from last year came by last week, or maybe the week before.
She is applying for a local college program.
Last year, I wanted to send her to Advanced English.
She wasn't ready and she knew it.
Two things got in her way: girl drama and (or over?) boys.
After some struggles and several heart-to-hearts with her mother, she decided to stay put.
It was the right call.
That drama overtook her life for a time and her grades suffered because of it.
This year she is, as far as I can tell, back on track.
Anyway, she came by last week in the middle of the day and asked me when I was staying after school.
Then she came back after school to work on her application essays.
I put her on my extra laptop so her writing would project on my screen.
It is much easier to multi-task when you need only glance up to read bits and pieces of an essay.
She had started, but felt, astutely, that her initial efforts were a bit cliche.
We talked through the prompt and some strategies.
In the end, she framed her response around an inspirational quotation.
It became a much more meaningful and unique piece of writing.
Yesterday, she returned.
This time, she had two requests: help with another essay and a recommendation.
Of course, I agreed to help.
Her new essay had some point of view concerns: switching from I to you too frequently.
In her estimation, it was also repetitive.
She was right.
I suggested ways she could use specific details instead of generalities.
The repetitiveness went away.
I kept the recommendation form to complete later.
I meant to do it before I left.
But I didn't.
I meant to do it when I got home.
But I didn't.
I meant to do it first thing this morning.
But I couldn't find it.
She came by to check on it twice.
This afternoon, I unearthed it from the disaster I called a desk and completed it.
I faxed it off and then went to find her in her seventh hour.
I didn't show her the whole recommendation, but she asked me to see it, so I gave her a glance.
Her grin could have split her head right in two.
Right there in front of her entire Spanish class she thanked me and gave me a big hug.
It was the sweetest response.
For a few minutes, I stuck around and listened to the class's fluency practice.
The kids stuttered and giggled and generally had fun with it.
For real, it was no big deal to anyone but me that this kid was so openly grateful for something so minor.
Kids are the darndest things.
They can break your heart or make you believe in all their potential.
The first part sucks.
But the hope, the belief, the gratitude (sometimes with a bit of learning mixed in) are very very good things.