When the bell rang and no students appeared for one of my afternoon classes, I started Zoom to meet my virtual kids with no mask and door open, just in case.
It was weird because I normally have anywhere between 2-5 students in that period. Sure enough, one young man trailed in about five minutes into class. He looked angry, discombobulated, uncertain. After Zoom, I asked a bit about his mood, but it was clear he didn’t want to say much. The little he was willing to offer was enough to lead me to believe there was disappointment involved, maybe shame? He began working and suddenly…
Student: Ms. What do you expect from your children?
Me: Like, expectations of my students?
Student: Nah, YOUR children.
Me: OH. The ones I give birth to?
Student: Yeah. When they get older. What do you expect of them when they’re older, when they get to my age?
And now I was the one discombobulated and uncertain.
Me: I… Uh, okay, well.
Me: Well, this is easy, I expect, uh… my kids? Okay, when my kids are older, I expect…
I have no clue why, but I was completely stumped. Have I never thought of this before? Has nobody ever asked me this question?
Me: OKAY, kid, to be honest, I have no clue why I’m stumbling so much. It feels like I should say “I want them to be happy,” but that’s not even true. Happiness is so fleeting, so instead I want them to be full of joy. Even when life gets rough, I want them to have joy. I feel like I should say I expect them to be academic superstars, but I don’t know if that’s true either. I think I expect them to have a strong work ethic, to serve others well, to demonstrate compassion to everyone. To listen carefully before they open their mouths.
He nodded and offered up a half smile. Now I’m wondering if my answer met his expectations. I have a toddler and second baby on the way. Why did I not have a well-crafted answer to spit out??