Friday, June 7, 2013

Year 3: Week 35 – The Presence

I wasn’t really sure how it would feel to come back to school after being away for two weeks.

I’ve been on paternity leave.  The last post Year 3: Week 33, I actually wrote a week early and then I scheduled it to be posted. That post ended up being published the day that Ollie was born.

Diana was due on a Wednesday and we found out earlier that week that Ollie would come to us on Thursday or Friday so I planned to start my paternity leave on Thursday. I didn’t tell anyone but my administrative team and a couple teachers who were close friends.

As each day got closer to Diana’s due date the part of me that wanted to be a part of the school year all the way to the end got slowly overshadowed by my concern for Diana and Ollie.  In a way, the last day before my paternity leave felt like the right time to go. It didn’t feel like I had it in me to go two more weeks. I’m sure I could have handled it but my mind and my focus really wasn’t at school, so I was glad that my feelings lined up with the timing for me to make my exit.

I came back to school to grab some things I needed at home a week after Ollie was born. It felt strange walking in and seeing that things went on without me. It was comforting to know that the life of the school didn’t rely on my presence but it felt weird to not be actively involved. I made an effort to see a couple people but I avoided seeing my students as to not cause too much of a stir.

One of the teachers I told about my leave asked me if I would come back for the last day of school. He said that he understood if I couldn’t but that showing up would mean a lot to my kids.

I talked to Diana about this and she said that she was fine with me going. Things with Ollie were going really smoothly and anyways, her mom would come over and help if anything came up.

I recognized the last day of school buzz as I walked into the building. And then my student started seeing me around. My middle school students tried to give me awkward hugs, and had me sign their yearbooks. My third graders mobbed me in a huge group hug without hesitation and my fifth graders wooed and awed when I lifted my iPad high over my head and played videos of Ollie for crowd of them.

It was a little overwhelming but it was a lot of fun.

After I helped the fifth grade students find their seats for the all school assembly I wandered over to the sixth graders and a group of them waved me over to them. I decided to sit with them for the assembly. I showed them pictures of Ollie during breaks between speeches and participated in a fun game of “poke the person in front of you and pretend that you didn’t do it.” Halfway through the assembly one of my flute players sitting near me said, “Mr. Tang, I’m really glad you came to school today, it doesn’t feel like school without you. “

Year three has been full of amazing moments, frustrating conflicts, and personal changes. It was a time when my attention became split and my priorities shifted. It was also the year that I felt truly embraced by my school and felt comfortable for the first time in my teaching career as something more than a rookie teacher.

What that flute player told me perfectly summed up what this year was about. It’s our spirit and our presence that makes a school feel like a community.  To be that presence for a student is a humbling thing and even more than the applause after performance and the positive written evaluations, it was those kind words that reassured me that my work during Year 3 means as much to my students as it did to me.

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