Quietly as possible, I gently pulled on the handle. But it didn’t matter. My attempt at a noiseless entry was instantly dashed by a metallic CLICK! of the latch bolt, which seemed to mock my effort by saying, “Don’t even try it!” At that moment, 21 heads all turned in my direction. My intention had been to slink into this classroom unobserved. My intention had been to NOT be a distraction to the class. However, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Oh well.
Finding a tile on the speckled white floor to study, I kept my head down in hopes that the 21 students would return their gaze to their teacher, who, before my abrupt entry, had been in the midst of addressing them all. I waited a beat. Okay, I think I can look up now, I thought. Slowly raising my head, lips closed and hands clasped nervously behind my back, I raised my eyes again. I haphazardly fixed my tie. Phew! It appeared I had quickly become uninteresting, and everyone had returned their stare to the teacher. Perfect.
Everyone, that is, except Maya.
For whatever reason, Maya continued to hold her stare on me. Soas not to become a further distraction, I mouthed a friendly “Hi!,” pulling my right hand from behind my back to offer a waist-high mini-wave. Maya responded with a yawn, then a smile. Taking a quick look around to be sure no one else was looking at me, I noiselessly inquired, “Tired?”
Closing both eyes for a long blink and shaking her head in the negative, Maya silently mouthed, “So tired.”
It occurred to me at that moment that we educators sometimes forget kids are actually people. No, I know that sounds bad, and I don’t mean it literally. But in the new harried and pressure-filled world of high-stakes testing, teacher evaluation systems, student learning outcomes, indicators of academic growth, smart goals, Bloomboard, EdReflect, data gathering, assessment-centered curricula, performance data, and on and on and on…we sometimes begin to conceptualize kids as ‘our little data machines.’ Our jobs have sometimes begun to feel like “‘teach’ them-get them to prove they ‘got it,’ and put that in a spreadsheet.”
Maya reminded me that kids are real people. They’re daughters. And sons. And granddaughters. And grandsons. And best friends. And sisters. And brothers. And cousins. And second cousins.
And sometimes they’re tired. And sometimes they’re hungry. And sometimes they have bad days. And sometimes they have good days. They’re…well, like us. People trying to find their way in the world. And with one small yawn, Maya reminded me of that very important fact.