Every Thursday I Call

Every Thursday I call.  

My home room class of 5th graders has 24 students.  The first week I called, I either spoke with students or left a voicemail on their parent’s phone to please contact me if their child wanted a weekly phone call from his or her teacher.  When all was said and done, 22 5th graders wanted a phone call.

The next week one student emailed and said she wanted me to begin calling her.  I was up to 23 of the 24. I know I’m just missing one but it still kills me. I’ve gone all this time and still haven’t had contact with one of my students.  That’s not how I usually operate. I try not to dwell on it but even the Good Shepherd went after the one.  

Every Thursday I call.

At the end of the call I always ask if my student would like me to call him or her again the following week.  The second week one student said no. I tried not to take it personally. When I said good-bye to that student I ended with a cheery, “I’ll talk to you later.”

I try very diligently to not lie to my students and while that wasn’t a technical lie, I wish I’d ended with something else.  Even though that was before our state governor announced school would be closed for the remainder of the year, I knew school would be closed for the remainder of the year.  Lord willing, I will talk with that student again at some point in life, but it won’t be for a long time. And goodness sakes, I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t have high hopes school will begin on time in August.  I tell myself, if school does begin on time, I will be pleasantly surprised, ecstatic, for sure, but if we don’t return in August, at least I’ve already started emotionally preparing myself so the disappointment won’t be quite as brutal.

Every Thursday I call.

The calls take about six hours.  At first, I thought I would just talk with my students.  I’ve learned I will talk with anyone who wants to talk. I speak with a lot of moms.  Many times, “teacher calling” is exciting and in some homes, I can hear younger siblings crowded around the phone listening to what Mrs. Jagger has to say.

Every Thursday I call.

I look forward to the day with celebration in my heart while sometimes simultaneously dreading it; however, I try to face the task with the heart of a soldier.  I don’t have answers. I don’t have responses. I have to be oh-so-careful how I word questions, but I’m always so very concerned. Does my student have enough food?  Is he or she physically and emotionally safe? I pray. I need wisdom. I don’t know how to respond when no one in my student’s home has a job. I pray. I need wisdom.  I try to casually suggest where I’ve heard students and families may obtain free food in the area.  

Every Thursday I call.

I can hear the delight in the kids’ voices when they hear my voice. Someone familiar has called just to talk with them!  Even though it is not normal in any way, there’s something still normal about hearing from “teacher.” And they expect it.  One week, I started my calls later than I normally do and the children were genuinely worried. “I thought you weren’t going to call, Mrs. Jagger!  Are you OK, Mrs. Jagger? Is your family OK, Mrs. Jagger?” I certainly do hope I live through all of this so I can make it back to the classroom, and I’ve realized one of the main reasons I want to live is for them.  Whether they love me or they don’t, I’ve realized they need me. And I need them.

Every Thursday I call.  

I do not cry.  I am my usual cheery self.  Some calls last thirty minutes because some have so much to share and some calls barely last two minutes but I’ve realized, the length isn’t important. It’s the connecting that’s important.  

Every Thursday I call.

When it is over, I am physically and emotionally spent.  I try to say something I know will make them smile or laugh.  I always tell them how truly good it is to hear their voice and how much I miss them.  I try to encourage them. Some of them literally have adults in their lives telling them their 5th grade year is ruined. (Sometimes it’s hard to undo what others have done.)  I gently remind them 5th grade is not ruined.  They will always be my 5th grade student and I will always be their 5th grade teacher.  Nobody can take away the memories, laughter, and times we’ve shared together! Nobody can take away Friday Trashketball in math class, or the times we’ve bonded crying together reading aloud some really great books, or fun activities we did in social studies when we did our Government Escape Room or our creepy “Roanoke Island Mystery.”  No one can take away the picture they have in their heads of me standing at our classroom door every single morning and greeting them by name. No one can take away the fact that I’m a little quirky and corny, nor the fact that secretly, they kind of like it that I’m a little quirky and corny and that I may or may not break out into song at any given moment.  And no one can take away the truth that I love them . . . they know that. I know they know that. Surely, they know that.

So every Thursday I call because I can and I will and I do.  Every Thursday I call . . . because teaching has never been about academics; it’s always been about the relationship. And not even the coronavirus can alter that fact.   

Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.