Pin It Rewind to 2:48 yesterday...
School had ended a few minutes before, and my students were bustling out the door in a flurry of backpacks and winter coats. Calls echoed through the hallways from friends, making plans for surreptitious rendezvous and the tell-tale sounds of laughter.
Another day of school had been chalked down as complete. It was time to go home.
As I sat, feeling my headache pulsing inside my skull, I watched my students depart. One boy, whom I’ll call, “Joey” approached me as I watched them all go.
I looked up at him and smiled. “What’s up, Joey?”
He stepped a little closer and spoke quietly. “I have basketball practice today, and I was wondering if you’d do me a favor.”
“Well, I was wondering if you’d come down and take pictures of me practicing.”
I shook my head. What kind of presumption was this? I mean, I had taken my camera to my students’ games before, and snapped a few shots as they played…if any turned out I’d pass them along to the kids’ parents, but this was the first time that I’d actually had a student request that I come and specifically take photos of him.
I was at a loss for words.
After all, what does one say to something like this?
On the one hand, you’d like to say, “Sure, you’re a fine little athlete, and it’s great that you’d like some snapshots of your playing. I’d be honored to come down and take them for you.”
While another part of you wants to say, “Look here, mister. Just who do you think you are? Don’t you think it’s a bit prideful and presumptuous to just ask me to take photos of you?”
Instead of answering, I tried to deflect.
“When’s your next practice, maybe I could come then.”
Joey’s brown eyes bored into mine. “No, Mr. Z. It has to be today. You have to be there…this is IMPORTANT.”
I gazed back at him. “Is it really that important to you?”
“Yes, more than you know.”
“Okay, I’ll come. Let me get my camera.”
“You don’t need your camera, Mr. Z, just come watch me practice, okay?”
“But I thought you…”
“I changed my mind. I just want you there.”
He grabbed my arm and began to steer me into the hallway. He took a sharp left and as we exited the doorway I noticed about half of my class ‘peeking’ around the corners down the hallway. As we got a few steps closer they all leapt out (as well as possible) with a chorus of “Surprise, Mr. Z! We love YOU!”
Joey pulled me to our hallway bulletin board where each of the kids had taken a construction-paper heart, and had written a message on it.
They all began to point to their hearts. I wrote this one! This one’s mine!
By now the hallway was nearly empty, and buses would be leaving any minute. “Guys, thanks, but you’re going to miss your buses. Get going!”
Before they left, I was mauled in three waves of group hugs. Mostly because not everyone could get close enough in just one.
As they left I stood for another moment or two at the bulletin board, looking at the visual representations of my students’ love.
I love them, too.