I rediscovered this piece I wrote five years ago before I had taken my job permanently. Even when I thought I was only there as a substitute, the kids had worked their way into my heart. I still try to make connections with them daily. I still hate the paperwork and often dodge it in an effort to make more time with the kids; and still, it matters.
I continue to spend part of my week with middle-schoolers. The maternity leave coverage I agreed to provide through January grew to a part-time commitment for the rest of the school year. I’ve been asked if I would consider signing on next year, but to do that I would lose my substitute status. The beauty of being a substitute is that it excuses me from some of the report writing that staff has to do, and I have been having the best time using that paperwork time with the kids instead.
The administration emailed us a video clip created by PBS on early warning signs a student is likely to drop out of high school. Research has shown that sixth graders who fail one or more core subjects and have frequent unexcused absences are on the road to becoming a drop out. It is alarming to realize the dye is cast for some kids as early as sixth grade. It is horrifying to realize it when you have real live faces to attach to that warning.
So began my latest passion. I scan attendance records each time I am at school. I have a list of students I am concerned about. Once I discover they are present I head off to their lockers where I slip a note, some candy or some sort of small token through the vents in their locker. It is a sweet nothing, but its message is significant. It says someone noticed I was here today, and it matters.
These kids are going to know me for five months of their lives. For some of them I am a bandaid on a hemorrhage. Will my efforts make a long term difference? I don’t know. But today-for this very day-some young people experienced school as welcoming. Today I saw smiles where there had been none. I noticed, and oh, yes! it mattered.
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Penny for your thoughts.