We were shut down, and then we came back and we were in masks.
So it was that year. And she came in, and she would wear her mask every day, and she would wear a hoodie every day, and she would just be covering herself. And her face just looked so pale, and she wouldn’t speak to anybody, and she sat in a corner and she just wouldn’t do anything.
And every day, I would inch a little bit closer, a little bit closer. I knew I needed to be quiet around her until she was ready to let me be next to her.
By Christmas break, we were starting to build a relationship, and she was able to unload a little bit on me what she was going through.
I could feel her anxiety. It was — it was a lot to feel it secondhand. I couldn’t imagine what she was feeling. And we got really close through that year. By the end of the year, she was thriving in math.
And she came out of her shell, complete 180. And then that summer, she messaged me, “Hey, Miss G,” and sent me this horrific news article and told me that was her family.
It was out of a nightmare.
The next year, she fell back a little bit. Something really terrible had happened to her mom, and she would eat lunch in my room every single day.
Sometimes she would just come up and I could see it in her face. And I’m like, okay, we’re having a hugging crying session in the hallway. She wouldn’t even say anything to me.
We would just hug and cry.
I have a lot of trauma from my childhood, and I feel like we connected with that ’cause she used to be like, “This happened to me, this happened to me, and that’s why I’m how I am.”
And I’m like, “This happened to me, this happened to me, and that’s why that’s not who I am. Because we’re not trying to do that anymore. That’s not what we have to be.”
She’s like, “Yeah, you’re right. I don’t have to be that.” And I’m like, yeah, of course you don’t.
We were — I was packing up my things and getting my book bag, and I have her do the — she knows my lights that I turn off, I have my lamps and my little candles and she helps me turn ’em all off. And we’re walking out, and she’s like, “Oh, wow, I love how this feels like I’m going home with my mom. And my mom’s a teacher.” And I just love that she had that moment of feeling like a kid, and not feeling like she’s carrying anything. She’s just a kid. And hopefully she remembers that forever, ’cause I will.
I love math. I love math so much. But I don’t love teaching because of the math. I love — I love people. I love connections. I love understanding people like they’ve never been understood.
I love my job. Yeah. That’s all.
–Lindsay Dawn Gayton
High School Math Teacher, Union Public Schools
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