One of the things that I miss the most, now in this pandemic time, is after school duty. I know, I know. That sounds crazy. Who, in their right mind, enjoys duty after a long day of teaching adolescents?
I guess I’m not in my right mind.
My duty for the past four years has been at the front of the school keeping kids from darting into the parking lot and keeping the cars moving toward the exit. Constant waving to drivers to move up. Constant hollering for kids to stay on the sidewalk.
“Off your bike!”
“Back on the sidewalk!”
“Slow down! Let’s go in slow motion, buddy!”
Pretty funny watching a seventh grader walk in “slow-mo” all the way to the end of the sidewalk.
But this duty was so much more than barking orders. Sure, it was about keeping kids safe. But, for me, it was also an ideal time to build relationships. Lots of thirty-second conversations and mini-check-ins.
“You’re such a good big brother walking with your sister!”
“Love those shoes!”
“Tell your folks I said hi!”
“Have a good evening!”
“Remember all the work you did in class last year? No? Me neither!”
A million conversations in the span of fifteen minutes. High-fives, handshakes, hugs.
I miss the little ones charging up from behind to give me a hug. “You’re my sister’s teacher! Will you still be here when I’m in seventh grade?”
I miss the second grader who hollers at the end of “college day,” “Look! We’re wearing the same T-shirt!” I look and realize he’s right. The boy grins and gives me a hug before scurrying off with his friends.
I miss the goofballs who give me a high-five and then proceed to joke about my receding hairline.
I miss “roasting” them mercilessly when they are done and hearing their buddies laughing. “Ooh! He got you!”
I miss the handshakes from kids who graduated last year who are now responsible for picking up a younger brother or sister.
I miss consoling the seventh grader who just broke up with her boyfriend.
I miss calming down the eighth grader who is determined to punch out another boy for some ridiculous transgression.
I miss the boy from third hour who tells me I am his favorite teacher…and his friend who says I am his second favorite.
I miss the boy with special needs – a master artist – who envelops me in a bear hug and tells me that he misses me – and that he’ll draw another Spider-Man picture for me to tack up behind my desk.
I miss the parents and grandparents of former students who slow down when they reach my spot, roll down their car windows to see how I’m doing, and thank me for having “putting up with” their child.
I miss the little boy in the back seat of one of those cars that squeaks my name and begs me to look at his puppy.
I miss the father in the front seat of another, paralyzed from an auto accident, but listening intently to my every word as tears form in the corners of his eyes.
By the time duty is over and I’m walking back to my classroom, I can barely remember what I said and to whom I said it…
What I do remember is the warm feeling that filled my soul but mere seconds earlier…
And that is what I’ve been missing the most…
Now that the sidewalk is empty.
Tim Ramsey has been a public school educator since 1983. He has served as a teacher in the elementary, junior high school and high school settings. In addition, he has taught community college and graduate-level classes. He served as a school administrator from 1998 until 2013 when he retired. A true advocate for children, Tim quickly decided to go back to the classroom where he is currently a seventh grade writing teacher at Westwind Elementary in the Pendergast Elementary School District.