As a teacher, I try hard to appear unbiased, but I would pick a classroom full of boys over a classroom full of girls any day of the week. Girls. Uff. I'm not wired for that. So. Much. Drama. And it's not all boys. I'll admit, I have a hard time with a bro, with a frat boy type. But give me a slightly sensitive boy and I'm on it. Give me a quirky kid. Maybe it's the boy mom in me. I don't care how tough a kid is on the surface, they're all mush in the center. And I'll get to it.
I've been hyper-aware lately of how many kids treat me like a school mom. The running joke in my classroom is that I'm going to bring the troublemaker kid home with me and make him live in my basement, put him on the chore chart, make him turn in his phone to me, tow a hard line of discipline. The kids joke all the time that my own children must hate me because I'm so strict, but I know there are so many kids, boys especially, who want desperately to come home with me. They want structure. They want consequences and responsibility. They want predictability. They want unconditional love. And I wish I could bring them home. Two days ago, a kid came up to me after class, shuffling his feet, looking at the floor, and said, "Ms. Moehlis, you know how you joke about how you're going to make me live in your basement and do chores? Could I? Come home with you, I mean?" And it broke my heart. What must it have taken for that kid to be so forward? To say what he so desperately wanted? Because I wanted, with all of my heart, to say, "Yes, sweetheart." But I knew I couldn't. You can love them, but you can't take them home. So I hugged him and said, "No, sweetheart. I wish I could. I'm sorry I can't. But I love you. And I want to be here for you in whatever way I can."
His mom's in and out of drug treatment, mostly out. Her boyfriend isn't kind. They fight. He's abusive. The kid is the primary caretaker for his siblings, four of them. It's hard to concentrate on school when he has so much responsibility in his life. And it isn't fair. He spends every afternoon in my classroom. He and the "homies," as they refer to themselves, shoot baskets in my room. They laugh and razz each other. They don't want to go home. I get it.
Today on their way out, one of the boys lingered. He gave me a handmade card. It said, "Happy Mother's Day, School Mom." Inside he wrote, "Sunday is Mother's Day, and I know you're not my mom, but at school, you feel like my mom. Thanks for loving me, even when I'm annoying and I don't bring a pencil to class and I don't try very hard. You're a good mom and a good teacher. Thanks for being there for me. I'd gladly live in your basement, even though you seem strict af. I'm lucky you're in my life." So he essentially swore in his Mother's Day card, but he told the truth.
We don't pick our kids and we certainly don't pick their circumstances, but I feel lucky that my heart is full and open. I feel lucky that I love the hard kids, mostly the boys, the easiest. They need it the most, I think. I'm lucky to be a boy mom -- to teach them kindness and the importance of emotion and truth and communication and love. These are the immeasurable benefits of being a classroom teacher and the burdens, too. We can show them love, but, at the end of the day, we have to send them home and hope the love we've given can counteract whatever they may face there. We have to trust that what we can give is enough.