As a high school teacher, my life gets rolling from the moment I enter the building. I usually get a few minutes at my desk before the first buses begin to arrive, and then, bam, kids are at my door. I love it. I have my own Morning Joe Show, Apollo High School Version.
Nathan, a junior from my homeroom, is usually sitting outside my door when I enter my hallway. He loves his video games, and is generally deep into one upon my arrival. He scrambles up when he sees me and says an unnaturally loud, “Hey, Teach!” because his headphones make it hard for him to regulate the sound of his voice. He is always pleasant, happy to grant me a smile and quick to answer my How are you? and How’s the game? and Are you winning? questions. Then, he settles into his desk in the back corner and carries on with his game.
A minute or two later, Yahye usually walks in. He’s an eighteen year old from Kenya, and proud of it. He was in my class last year, and was one of my brightest students. He was the best questioner I’ve ever seen, asking questions that were outside the box and big picture. I could just see him thinking before he would confidently raise his hand. (I should have written down his questions. I know they were stellar, but my 51 year old brain can’t remember them.) Whenever his hand would shoot up, I would know the discussion was going to take a fun turn! The other students enjoyed hisquestions too, learning from the conversations they brought about.
Yahye comes to see me most mornings to see how I’m doing, to tell me about his latest soccer game, to discuss the weather, or how my children are doing. He wants to know how my classes are going and what we are studying. Two days ago, I was just leaving the room to run some errands as he entered.
“Are you leaving?” he asked.
“Yes, just on my way out,” I said. “Can I help you with something before I go?”
He reached into his backpack, pulled out a warm package wrapped in tin foil, and handed it to me with a grin. “I brought you some sambusa. My mom made it this morning. I know you like it.”
Gold mine! Sambusa is my favorite Somali food. Large, deep fried dough triangles full of minced garlic, onion, spices, and ground beef. When I opened up the tin foil for dinner that night, I also found deep fried ribbons of dough soaked in sugar for dessert. It was the most delicious I’d ever had. As delicious as it was, it was also bittersweet.
Why so? Well, I have been transferred. After 9 years of teaching English Language Learners at Apollo High School, my supervisor and principal informed me a month ago that, for leadership purposes, I’d have to pack up my things and my relationships and head across town to the south side of St. Cloud to the other district high school. Triple punch to the stomach, overwhelming news for the heart and mind. I don’t want to leave Apollo. I fought the decision over the last month, and was told last Friday that the decision is final. I lost my battle and I don’t like it one bit.
La de da to new beginnings. I am trying to stay positive, but I know I won’t see Nathan next September. Or Yahye.
When I told Yahye in April that I was being transferred, he was visibly upset. He knew I was upset about the decision, that I didn’t want to go. He told me, “Mrs. Marolf, I’ll pray for you. I don’t want you to go.” That’s the first time one of my students has said they’d be praying for me. How sweet is that? I just about lost it when he said that. What a love, what a dear.
Yahye he has come back every morning to check in with me, just as he has all year. I am blessed by his sweet presence, his genuine concern, his accountability. He knows that I will miss him. Our morning check-ins are numbered – and that stinks.
Hamda, another student of mine from last year, also visits me every morning. One of my students, Ayan, said to me, “I know you and Hamda are best friends – she is always here!” Yes, Hamda is always there. She is a junior this year. She is an aunt, a sister, a student who adores school and its challenges. She works at Walmart for about twenty-five hours per week. I asked her what she does with the money, and she said, “Oh, I just give it to my mom so she can pay for what we need.”
Hamda visits me to tell me about what she did last night, and yesterday, and over the weekend. She shows me pictures of her nieces and nephews When she showed me a picture of her cousin’s wedding, I said, “Which one is you?” because I couldn’t find her in the photos. She pointed to an unrecognizable gorgeous young woman, dressed to the nines, makeup and hair on point and fabulous.
“Whoa!” I say. “Best not to come to school like that – all of the boys will be following you everywhere!”
She giggles and tells me about the U.S. History test that she has today. She rambles on about the World War II study guide, how we discussed it last year in class so it’s easy for her because she already knew something about it. She remembers reading “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and oh, how she loved that book. She tells me that she has to work and go to school and that she has three tests tomorrow and how she will make it all happen? I’m so proud of her I could scream.
I want to scream. I want to cry. I will miss her, Yayhe, and Nathan. I will miss walking down the hall saying Good morning and How are you? to everyone I know. It sucks to be transferred. Really, it does.
Pity me, if you will, for a moment. And then wish me well, won’t you? I know that things could be much worse, that I could be out of a job. I need to remember that there are other children on the south side, other friends, other students and colleagues whom I will say Hello and Good morning to. But it won’t be the same.