Thin. Wiry. Moving, moving, moving. Talking, talking, talking. New to our school An address that indicated that he lives in a low income housing apartment complex a mile northwest of school. Reading three years below grade level.
The weekend after school started I went to a baseball game with friends. One of the women was a literacy coach at the school M had attended. She gushed about him. He was one of her favorite kids. Low academically, but she adored him.
"Tell him you are a good friend of mine," she said.
I went back to school on Monday.
"Hey," I said. "I know a friend of yours."
I had his attention. "Who?"
"Ms. RJ," I said.
"From my old school?"
"Yes. I said, and showed him a picture of us at the baseball game the weekend before, and then a picture of her chocolate lab, Cafe, playing with Rooney and Galaxy in my backyard.
"That's cool," he said, and walked away. But then I heard him talking about Ms. RJ a little while later and knew I had made a new friend.
A couple of weeks later, M had a birthday. I did what I do for all of my kids- put their name on a slide at the beginning of that morning's slide deck. Found a picture of a cake with something I know they love. I think his was soccer. Found a funny happy birthday video.
In the hall after class, he hugged me. I was surprised. My sixth graders are cool. They like me, or at least I think they do, but they don't hug me very often.
"Thanks, Miss. Thanks for my birthday."
And now it's March, six months later. M is still not an easy kid. We have not had an easy year. This trimester he had a D, mostly because he doesn't do a lot of work in class. We talk a lot. He promises he will do better. We try different strategies-- audio books, seat changes, small groups. I worry a lot.
On Friday, we are on the playground. Sixth grade does Student of the Week, then goes out for an extra recess almost every Friday. He has been out on the soccer field, playing with his friends. All of a sudden, he appears in front of me.
"Hey Miss," he says, throwing himself at my chest. He wraps his arms around me, hangs on for a long time. He releases and backs away, but then wraps his arms around me again. Another long, hard hug.
"I love you, Miss."
"I love you too, buddy."
I have been thinking about M all weekend. I wonder what is going on. If he is ok.
Sometimes teaching is a hard, hard job.