Like a superhero transforming from Joe Dirt to Captain Crankypants in a telephone booth, every Wednesday and Thursday, for an hour and a half, I transform from Amy to Mrs. M. I don’t become a superhero, not in the traditional sense, but I become a teaching assistant – volunteering my time to my daughter’s classroom, helping students, helping teacher, and helping myself. I first suggested this when I saw how daunting the task of public school teacher was in the New Orleans public schools. I wanted to help. I wanted to be involved. My daughter’s teacher graciously took me up on my offer and for the past semester I have been explaining, teaching, leading, and caring. Sometimes I help with group projects, other times I correct papers. Once in a while I get in front of the class and lead.
It can be frustrating at times, don’t get me wrong. I have broken up a couple of fights. I have had to raise my voice and do the countdown that, at home, means trouble is brewing and mom has gotten in touch with her Irish side. I have had to stare down a boy that told me he was grown and could do what he wanted. And a few thought they could get away with things, not realizing I was always a step ahead of them. There were a few times I cried, like when I saw a mother punch her son in the chest in the hallway when she came to pick him up. Sometimes I have felt that whether I was there or not didn’t make a difference to the kids – some were past the point of breaking.
And then today happened.
For the past two weeks, I haven’t made it to assist in class. I was dealing with a lot of really heavy issues, along with some chronic pain that crescendoed to being unbearable and left me stuck in bed most of the week.
Today was the first day that I had picked my daughter up from school, trudging up the stairs to the entrance, then the stairs to her classroom. I waited patiently outside the classroom door, not wanting to be one of those parents that felt that since I was there to pick her up, instruction automatically ended. Finally, it was time for class to end and I popped my head in the door. I was greated with a chorus of “Mrs. M!” “Mrs. M!”
“Hey Mom!” my daughter greeted me, handing me a yellow envelope.
To: Mrs. M
From: Ms. S and Class
I checked in with Ms. S quickly, letting her now that I would be there on Wednesday and was feeling pretty good.
My daughter and I walked down the steps to the exit, then the many of steps until the sidewalk, chit chatting about her day, what she had to suffer through for lunch, and the homework she needed to do before I would let her finish reading Charolette’s Web when she asked what was in the card.
I opened the card up, read it, and tears instantly fell down my cheeks. Those who know me well will tell you I tear up, but not often do the tears actually fall. This was one of those rare moments.
“You are in our prayers daily, in our hearts hourly, in our thoughts always,” the card read.
It was when I turned the card over that I began to cry.
I hope you get better soon – Michael
I hope you get well so you can come visit – Kamesha
I hope you will be ok – Love, Eboni
I hope you get well and I wish you a happy new year – Jotavia
I hope you will be fine – Sydney
I hope you feel better soon – Ronell
I love you because you help us well – Dante
Thank you – Terry
Thank you from all of us and I hope you have a good recovery – Israel
I love you for helping us – Sheldon
I am very glad you help us. Thank you – Janari
I hope you get better – Denver
I hope you feel better – Azlynn
Get well soon. I think about you! – Keyanna
I hope you get well. I miss you – Ashley
Feel better soon – Lyric
Thank you for helping the class. – Trey
I hope you re feeling better soon – George
Mrs. M come back soon! – Harold
I hope you get better and can help me write my basketball story – James
It was in that moment, my decision was made, I cannot leave this city. This city, those kids, they need me.