I told the kids about Turkey...
Nevertheless, I didn't have a plan. Okay, no, cross that out. I had a lot of plans, but the actual moment of telling them that I won't be back next year and that a teacher from Turkey will be coming to our school - that, I had not planned. I was just sitting there with my kids in robotics, helping one kid write a program to complete a challenge created by another kid, when I heard myself say, I'm going to tell you something really important, but only if you can keep it a secret from the other kids until I'm ready to tell them.
I know two things about kids and secrets: 1. Like any normal human being, they love being let in on the news early. 2. Telling them something is a secret is a surefire way to make sure they tell everyone they know. So they all agreed to keep my secret, and I also realized I'd better tell the other kids soon, because this cat was not going to stay in the bag very long.
The robotics kids did not know what to do with the information I gave them. One girl - to my guilty, eternal delight - exclaimed, No! You're our best science teacher! (Um, how many do you have?). The others asked a few lackluster questions - Will she be OUR teacher? - and then went back to working on their robot.
So today, realizing that I had a little extra time at the end of my lesson, I told each of my classes. It was interesting to see the different reactions. One class is pretty excited about writing letters to my exchange partner to tell her about themselves and our school. Two sixth graders have promised to research Turkey this summer. They want me to teach them Turkish words when I learn them. Another class seems sad. That same little girl from robotics has given me - I kid you not! - four hugs in the 6 hours of school since she first heard the news. When she realized I was going to tell her class, she begged me not to. Not today! It's not a good time! It's not good news! One of her classmates - a really good kid and excellent student - wore a permanent frown. She's going to give us really hard homework! (Like I don't?).
The seventh graders asked if I'd be back to see them graduate, which was a pleasant surprise given how hard I've had to fight to get them to stop fighting me (and they still do! - every day!) and settle down and learn. It seems that, deep down, beneath all those layers of resistance and apathy, they care. I guess I knew that, but it's been a particularly rough couple of weeks with them, and I forgot.
A thousand questions: Does she speak English? Do her kids wear uniforms? Where will she live? Will you get a raise for this? Can we do an exchange with her students? Where will YOU live? Is she nice? Why isn't she going to teach us Turkish? Is Turkish food different? What if you don't like it? Why are you doing this?
I am trying to model curiosity about the world, a sense of responsible adventure, an openness to trying new things, an excitement about what's new and different. I reminded them that everything that she goes through getting to know them, I will be going through in my new school. How do they want the kids in Turkey to respond to me? What would make me feel welcome there? I'm going to have them brainstorm things to share about our school, community, and city, and then write letters, and hopefully take pictures to include with their letters.