Some days I am just floored by the empathy of my students.
Yesterday my aunt died.
It was not a surprise -- she's been sick for a while -- but it doesn't make the reality any less difficult for me. I was on my lunch break when my father called to tell me, so I had a minute or two to myself before I had to leave to pick up my class. I had it together on the walk down the corridor, but as soon as I walked into the cafeteria all my emotions got the better of me. I teared up and knew that if I opened my mouth to speak I would break down. Several children saw me and watched me take some deep breaths to try to get it together.
I believe very strongly that it's a positive thing for children to see adults show emotion (I've mentioned this before), but I also don't think it's appropriate for me to break down and sob in front of them.
It's a good thing my class and I have so many routines and use so much sign language with each other; I knew if I started to talk I would start to cry in earnest. So, I was able to use my hands to signal what to do. After they lined up and we started back to the classroom I saw our math specialist and asked if she wouldn't mind walking them back to the classroom so I could take a minute to myself. She jumped right in to help out (♥). I went to the restroom and cried for a minute and then felt ready (and eager, really) to get back to the students, so I headed back and thanked her profusely for helping out.
The children wanted to know why I was so sad (of course), so I shared my reason, and told them that I was really sad, but that I was also okay and I was so glad to be with them. After our closing circle, we line up for dismissal. As we say goodbye I always ask each child if they'd like a "handshake, a high five, or a hug" before they leave. Most of them choose hug every day, and each one of them did yesterday.
I'll tell you this: each one of my students held me a little bit more tightly, and so many of them -- so many -- looked me in the eye and said, "I hope you feel better soon."
That's my class.
I couldn't have asked for a better way to soothe some of my sadness. My students are incredible. I am so lucky to work with them.