There are moments when I think my students are too old for their age -- that they know too much about drugs and sex and the hatred of this world. Those are the moments I feel hopeless and empty. The moments when I wonder where I misplaced my idealism.
And then, I put on a Disney movie after an ass-whip day of standardized testing. And my most challenging students pull their desks close and stare wide-eyed at the screen, mesmerized by the colors and music and story. They boo the villains and take up for the victims. They talk to no one but themselves about what they'd do if they were that character. Sometimes they cry or get very quiet during the sad parts. Sometimes they sing and dance through the happy moments. And a few have even shadow-boxed the fight scenes right alongside the hero.
But my favorite moments of all time are when they smile at all the parts meant for kids but laugh at all of the jokes meant for grown-ups. That's when I remember that I am blessed with these babies at The In-Betweens. We exist at the intersection of Being a Kid and Growing Up, where some days you just want to be big and tall while on others you still want to curl up and be small. Where innocence isn't entirely eclipsed by cynicism.
And where sometimes you still get a movie and orange slices at the end of a long day of work.