And Still I Weep

Facebook is a tool both wonderful and terrible. It brings fast information with no real details. In an instant, you learn of relationships and birthdays, scandals and successes, and deaths…

That was the news this morning.

In my eleven years of teaching, I have lost five students. Three left us in a single calendar year. I remember all of their faces. Teaching high school, I look for the college graduations and wedding announcements. These are things these children will never bring me.

The hardest loss, for me, was Sunshine. Her smile was so bright that the planets would realign their orbit to circle her. She was a leader from birth and never even knew it, a force so strong that I’m sure the devil himself shook with fear when she renounced him. I vividly remember our last conversation; I am so glad I stopped to talk. She changed my life and taught me more than I ever could have taught her.

I am blessed to have known her.

Her memorial was a parking space of flowers and an empty chair at graduation. Her legacy is so much more.

Tomorrow will be a day to hug my students when needed. A day to treasure them. To look beyond the frustrations of my work and remember that we only have each other here for a little while.

Rest in peace my students.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


A Bang my Head Against the Wall Kind of Moment

I’m a teacher.  It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be (other than a mom, of course).  On most days I appreciate the fact that I have an opportunity to change the face of our future.  I realize that parents send us the best kids they have, and I try not to cringe when we are reminded of that every year before the kids return to the regularly scheduled program otherwise known as free, public education.  There are some days, however, where I want to invent a new code word, call in sick, and let the world fall apart while I watch the news in my pajamas to see how it turns out.

This is an example of one of those days:

Knowing that I have provided a study guide and time to prepare, I ask my teenaged bundles of angst to clear their desks for a previously scheduled test.  Three of them immediately begin their list of why they would ultimately fail and how it was my fault for not giving them time to go home and read the one short and incredibly interesting poem they missed because they were absent the previous day.  Attempting to keep my cool because they often stage mini-revolutions like this, I hand them the copies of the poem that I had already prepared for them and reminded them that they were going to the hall to read and prepare for this section of the test as a small group.  Thus, the scholars were happy…

The rest of the class, having prepared and feeling fairly good about the situation, began their test.  As the room became unbelievably quiet, we began to hear strange sounds from the hall.  It would seem that these three worried young men, in fear that they would not understand this poem if they did not master the “beat” (meter) that the poet had chosen, had turned it into a piece of performance art.  As they rapped the lines, and Alfred Noyes undoubtedly rolled in his grave, my previously silent testers began to laugh at their wayward classmates.

Shaking my head, I step into the hall.  Student 1 continues his ultra-hip-hop rendition of “The Highwayman” while Student 2 does his best 80s style beat box.  Student 3 assures me he told them not to do it.  Shaking my head, I urge them to stop and tell me what they understand.




I ask them to start trying to explain it all from the beginning.

Student 1 argues that I should not expect them to understand it if I won’t read it to them.

Returning to the room, I urge them to try again, this time reading it more like the poet probably intended for it to be read.  Leaving the door cracked, I can hear them taking turns, reading stanza by stanza.  Then a crazy thing happened!  Student 2, no longer impersonating a trap set, begins to explain to the others what is happening in the poem!  I wait… they read… Students 1 and 3 explain some more.  Who cares if the kids in the room are getting a total recap of the poem, the guys in the hall are learning!

I hear when they finish the poem and step out to guide them through the last few forgotten details. Student 1, no longer upset because I didn’t read to them, tells me something amazing.  It seems he now understands how this education thing works.

His insight:  All he has to do is pay attention and try, and he will understand!


(This explains why teachers are a little crazy.)