When I started this journey back in January, I missed three days of school. I am never absent, so my students knew that something was wrong. When I came back to school, I was bombarded with questions. Where were you? Were you sick? Is something wrong? (As adults we know to give each other space. We know something is going on, but that person will tell us when he is ready. This is not the case with teenagers. They have no qualms about finding out the answers.) I told them that I was okay. It is not professional to tell students your personal problems. I have never done that, and I certainly was not going to start now. I told them that I had some "family stuff" with which I had to deal. They finally let it drop - until I was absent again. Here came the questions again. One student said, "Mrs. Adams, we have been together for two years now. You can tell us what is going on." I just smiled and got them off the subject.
I was absent from school on three different occasions for a total of eight days. At this point my coworkers knew something was going on. During my third absence period I finally shared with them in an e-mail what was happening. I think telling people that you are going through a divorce is one of the most difficult parts. It brings such a finality to the whole process. It was good that I finally shared with them. They rallied around me in a quiet and unobtrusive way. I am so thankful for the amazing people with whom I am blessed to work.
I came back to school after that third absence period. After a few days back at the very end of class, one of my students pulled up a stool in front of my desk and sat down on it. The conversation went something like this.
"Mrs. Adams, we have to talk."
"So this morning I went on your facebook to remind you to bring me the Mental Floss magazine since you never remember." (Mental Floss is a really neat magazine full of all types of trivia. I would bring it to school and share with the students. They loved it. I could not remember to bring the last issue to school!) "Now, Mrs. Adams, something really major is going on in your life. It looks like a reverend has blessed your facebook page. Everybody is praying for you."
I took a big deep breath. I don't want to say what I am about to say. It puts the last nail in the coffin of my marriage, and it breaks my heart once again. But I have to accept what is and move forward.
"I am getting a divorce."
He said he was so sorry and quietly left. No more questions. No more prying. They knew what they needed to know.
Of course, word got out quickly among the students. Not one of them approached me and asked for details. But the way that they responded to me told me that they knew. I am sitting here crying as I write this. Those kids rallied around me. Now don't think they are perfect angels. They were still up to their mischief. They still complained that we had to work every day! But, they let me know that they cared about me, and they were so sorry for what I was going through.
My girls would leave sticky notes on my desk.
"I love you, Mrs. Adams."
"You're the greatest teacher ever."
Those notes would always come at a time when I needed them the most. One of my students from the previous year came walking in one day with a doughnut. "Here, Mrs. Adams. This is for you." Her teacher told me that she asked during class if she could take it to me. He said she had been worried because I had lost weight, and she wanted to take me something really fattening.
At the end of the school year, my coworker shared something with me. He said that after the students found out, they came to him. They asked him what they could do to help. I loved his response. He said, "The best thing you can do is just be nice and good in class and let her teach. She has enough stress right now in life. So just make the teaching part of her days easier."
Through this whole process I found a renewed hope in teenagers. Now don't get me wrong. They can still drive you just about crazy! They can be self absorbed. They can be moody. They can argue with you for days on end about nothing. And they do blow everything completely out of proportion. But they have hearts the size of Mt. Rushmore. My students opened up their hearts to me this year and poured out love and encouragement that I needed at a very dark time in my life. In the midst of all of this, they still learned a whole lot of algebra and geometry. They showed their stuff on the FCAT!
At the end of one day, I found a note on my podium under my books. It came from my one of my tenth grade girls.
"Mrs. Adams, Your super pretty and its his lose. Your strong and you'll learn from this. We're here for you and we love you."
They didn't know any of the details of my divorce, and they did not need to. They knew that their teacher came in and smiled and taught every day like she always did. But they knew that even though their teacher was smiling, she was hurting. They wanted to make it better, and they did.
"Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity."
1 Timothy 4:12