Don’t let anyone touch my bag of rocks

I try to keep a list of quotes that are uttered in my classroom throughout the school year. I like to remember all the crazy requests and noteworthy phrases that are uttered over the course of a year.  Sometimes the list is perplexing, sometimes it makes me really proud of my kids and what we are learning, and sometimes it is just so random that it makes me shake my head.

I got one of the head shakers last week, and I knew that it had to be the title of my next blog post.  I wasn’t sure what direction it would go when my student shouted it across the room, but something this great had to be shared.

One of my newspaper editors set a bag down by my desk and flippantly said, “Stein, don’t let anyone touch my bag of rocks.”  I believe there was a sarcastic comment about what would happen to the perpetrators of such a violation, but it took me a few seconds to realize that she was serious; there was literally a bag of rocks that I would be babysitting for the course of the school day.  Of course I had to satisfy my own curiosity, so I asked if I could look in the bag, and there they were, just a bunch of rocks of varying sizes, shapes, and types.

Last year, a different editor messaged me about something she had left in my room and whether she could pick it up early the next day.  I joked about whether she left it there on purpose and jokingly told her that all of them just considered my room an extra pocket of their backpack.  She laughed, but then admitted that it was probably the case.

It does annoy me sometimes.  On two separate occasions since the school year started, my newspaper kids have accidentally left their chromebooks in my classroom.  Luckily, they each have other activities they do after school, so I could bring it to them and make sure they didn’t get behind on homework.  It annoys me, but it also lets me know how much my kids feel at home in my classroom.

I know both of you who actually read my blog are probably tired of hearing this again, but I believe the role of the extra-curricular sponsor is to build a family for their students.  That means building a safe space in your classroom which the students consider a home away from home.  I’m really glad that I have built the type of relationship with my students that allows my room to be a destination location during the school day.

I have had students from all of my activities come to my room for various reasons outside of their designated class times.  I have some who just stop by to vent and tell me all of their problems because they know that I will listen, avoid judgement, and try to help them come up with the best solutions.  I have had students sit in my classroom and work all day (with the permission of a counselor or a principal) because something terrible happened and they just needed to be somewhere that felt like home.  I have some who come to me any time something good happens in my life (I’ve got to admit, these encounters are what get me through a lot of days).  I also have frequent visitors before and after school, and even during their lunch, who just come in to talk and use me as a de facto checkin or check out for their days.

Early on in my career it felt like an annoyance.  I was happy to have built positive relationships with my students, but I just wanted some silence every now and again.  I remember a few newspaper kids who would come in every morning to seemingly just see if they could annoy me.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized that while the visits may not have been the most constructive ways for me to start the day, my room served as a place where these two could be themselves and start the day in a positive way, especially if they weren’t happy to be at school that day. I remember counting down the days until they graduated and I could be left alone each morning, yet some days I find myself missing their crazy energy.

Our students need a positive adult in the building, and if they are anything like my students, they need a room that feels like an extension of their home.  They need a place to leave their sports equipment if they have a game later that day, they need a room to visit when their emotions head in an extreme direction for the day, and sometimes they just need a place where they can store their bag of rocks.

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