Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Saying Goodbye

I wrote a similar post about this at the beginning of the year, but the Father is once again trying to open my eyes and give me a deeper love for others. So I'll share again.

This week has been incredibly hard for me. Even as I write this, I'm crying. I have truly grown to love my sweet children these past two years and the thought of never seeing them again is breaking my heart into a million little pieces. I don't like crying and I would almost rather just skip all these goodbyes, except for the fact that I really need all those final hugs from my babies.

As I prepared to say goodbye I thought about each of my classes and which children would probably take it really hard and which ones would be ok. So far I've had two big surprises.

In class 6 I have a boy named Mike that I've taught for two years. Last year he was a pretty good student. He talked too much, but he always participated in class and was excited to speak English. This year he has been a very different child; very disinterested and I would say one of my problem students. So when I went into his class for a party last week I didn't expect Mike to be upset at all. I really thought he just didn't like me this year.

A few minute after the party started I noticed Mike was crying quietly at his desk. I thought, "Mike must have gotten in trouble." It didn't even cross my mind that he was upset over me. Later on, Mike got up in front of the class to sing a song with a few of the other boys, and about a minute in he stopped singing and started sobbing uncontrollably in front of the class. I still wasn't sure what was going on but I thought, ok, maybe he IS crying about me, so I asked my co-teacher Monica what was wrong and she said, "Mike is crying because of you. As soon as you walked into class he began to cry." I said, "But I didn't even think Mike liked me. He's very naughty in class." Monica said, "Mike lives with his grandparents. His parents are not with him. I don't know where they are, but maybe he doesn't have a good family situation, so he doesn't know how to express himself." Man, that hit me in the heart. How many times have I dismissed his behavior because he's just a "bad kid" and there's nothing I can do about it? How many times have I left class frustrated with him and not taken the time to talk with him about it?

Mike and I, post onstage meltdown. 
This morning I walked into another class, class 2, thinking this would be an easier class to say goodbye to. I have only taught this class for one year, and although I love the kids, I'm naturally more attached to the kids I've had for two years. This class has also been one of my most challenging behavior wise. There are a lot of low level kids and in general the whole class just has a chatter problem!

For each of my classes I put together a video of all the pictures I've taken of them throughout the year. I turned on the video for class 2 and started walking around the room as we watched it together. Most of the kids were laughing and talking as they saw each other on the screen, so I didn't notice that Felix was crying until I walked by him. Felix is one of my lowest students in all of grade 3. Cute as a button, but very low and very talkative and hyper. He talks ALL CLASS, EVERY CLASS. I usually don't get too frustrated with Felix. It's more like a joke with the class that I'm constantly calling him out and saying, "Felix! Be quiet!" and he'll say, "Yes, yes, Ms. Rachel," and nod his head. He's so darn cute. But again, I didn't expect him to be too upset to see me go. I thought he'd just be kind of apathetic.

So I see Felix crying, and this is no "fake cry" like some of the kids pull. This is an all out shoulders shaking, can't catch his breath, tears streaming down his face kind of cry. Again I was surprised. I though, what have I done to make this child love me? To make him this upset to see me ago? And how many opportunities to love on him have I passed up because I just didn't think he cared? Could I have inspired him to work harder at English if I had just invested a little more time with him? I don't know what's going on in Felix's little head. I don't know why he acts out in class or doesn't pay attention. But I know that when I saw him sobbing in my class my heart broke, and I wished for more time to spend with this boy and love on him.

Felix is the cutie second from the right. :)
Sometimes teaching feels like a constant struggle to just make them LISTEN TO ME. Sometimes I leave class so frustrated with my kids and wonder why they can't just behave and act like civilized children. And then I am reminded that they are just 3rd graders and full of energy like any normal children, that some of them have really bad stuff going on at home, and just because they don't act like perfect angels every single day doesn't mean they don't like me or that they're even bad students. These children are a gift. Such a wonderful gift. My life has been forever changed by each of these children and I wouldn't trade these two years for any of the things I've always thought I wanted. These have truly been some of the best years of my life, mostly thanks to these kids.

So whats my point... I did start out with one in my mind. I guess the Father's just still reminding me, even as I'm getting ready to leave, that sometimes I need to take a step back and try to see things through his eyes. I might have a student that drives me crazy every class, but how does my Father see this child? That's easy. Through the eyes of love. If I just stopped to remember that a little more often, I might not have missed out on making more of a difference in these two little boys lives. It really breaks my heart to think I could have done more.

I have this verse written on my desk from I Corinthians 16:14: "Let all that you do be done in love."
It was the verse I held onto last fall when things were really tough at work and I didn't feel like doing anything period, much less doing it in love. It's still a work in slow progress, but this week was a good reminder for me to keep love as the center of all I do.

I'll be stateside in 6 days. Please bear with me if I don't always seem ecstatic to be there. I'm leaving little pieces of my heart scattered among 200+ 3rd graders in Beijing. Nevertheless, I am so excited to see you all and reconnect with all my family and friends. I love you all. Thank you for all your support these last two years. I could never have made it without you.
More class 2 cuties.

Class 4 childrens. So thankful for these kids!

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