As a 10th grade English teacher, I learn a lot about students from their writing. I read about divorces, neglect, drug use, alcohol problems, and misery.
And I hold all of their words sacred. They’ve trusted me with them, and they could write about something easier, but they share what eats at them. They have to, before it consumes them.
My students likely don’t realize how much they’re revealing, but maybe they do. Maybe they hope someone’s paying attention when they write, “But that’s not who I want to be. I plan to be different.”
And I write back to them. “I know you’ll be different. You’re amazing already.”
They apologize for turning in work late—someone was kicked out of the house in the middle of the night, someone was taken away by the police, someone was using again, someone didn’t pay the electricity bill, an elderly guardian was afraid of the snow and didn’t want to send the child out into more danger—
I smile and say, “Whenever you can get it to me.”
“I will,” they say with determination. And they do. And it’s good.
My heart seizes nearly every day. Yesterday a student, with tears in her eyes, said, “Today’s my last day. My dad got custody again and I’m moving to his town this weekend.” Her best friend sat in the corner, weeping.
I realize I have no real problems—none at all. The ones I have are merely stubbed toes compared to the severed arteries these students walk around with, smiling bravely and vowing to be better to the world than it’s been to them.
I wish them luck. I pray silently for them, asking for inspiration as to how I can help. All I get back is, “Show them love. They need someone to love them.”
I know some people who take great pride in their heritage, brag about their legacy and ancestors, sit arrogantly on the shoulders of giants as if they climbed there all by themselves.
Then there are others who have crawled out of pits their families have dug, and they wipe themselves off and declare, “My children will never know of this place.”
I stand in awe of the second group.
Since I’ve moved to Maine last year and was asked to be a permanent substitute teacher (I love that oxymoron), I’ve taught my students probably a dozen things. In return they’ve taught me thousands.
I have a lot of catching up to do.
“I’ll remind her every day that her heritage doesn’t determine her actions. She’ll be the best beginning of a new legacy.”
~Book 8, The Last Day, coming Summer 2018