At the end of each week in sixth grade, we have “Fun Friday” 30 minutes of social time at the end of the day. Sadly, recess is thing of the past when students reach middle school. Although it was warm today, the fields were wet and we opted for game time inside. I had papers to check, but I chose instead to play UNO with six students. Some had never played (cursed video games!) so we all assured them that they would learn as we went along. I loved watching each face wrinkle up in disbelief at the realization of drawing four, changing the color to the “only one NOT in (my) hand,” or being skipped or reversed. I laughed out loud when one boy looked at me with a gleam in his eye and said, “I’m going to get you, Mrs. L. I’m going to pay you back for this year.” We laughed. The kids talked incessantly (adolescent kids just like to hear themselves talk..a lot).
It was time well spent with my kids. I now have work to do at home, but that’s ok. You can’t measure what they learned today on any standardized test and knowing the rules of UNO won’t secure them a place in a top-tier college or make them competitive with Chinese kids. But maybe they will go home tonight and instead of watching tv, suggest a game of cards with their family. Maybe they will some day look back on this moment, laughing with their teacher on the floor and knowing that all things said in veiled threats toward her were not taken seriously. Maybe they will understand the importance of laughter and playtime with their own children one day. What they reminded me of today is my calling to be a teacher wasn’t rooted in a deep desire to teach kids about energy, weather, tides or our vast universe. It was because I love kids, especially these adolescent rascals. I love their awkwardness, their need to be affirmed, their laughter, and their perfect imperfections. I need to remember to give them a break every now and then to give myself one as well.