Quit protesting and start doing; it’s not the government’s job but ours

This week in school I taught about the rescuers during the Holocaust and WWII. (We’re reading a Holocaust memoir and I like to give my students historical context.)

We learned about Irena Sendler, who smuggled out 2,500 babies and children from the Warsaw Ghetto, and about Oskar Schindler whose list preserved the lives of 1,200 Jews.

And about Sir Nicholas Winton, who arranged for 669 children to leave Czechoslovakia for new lives in England as the Nazis closed in on Prague.

And about Gail Halvorsen, the Candy Bomber, who started a movement to bring chocolate and gum to the Germans being starved by the Soviets in Berlin in 1948.

Each of these people did something similar: They saw a problem and they INDIVIDUALLY took action. They realized that–all on their own–they could provide relief.

None of them said, “The government really should . . .” because in most of these cases, it was the government CAUSING the problems.

None of them protested or chanted slogans: they went to work instead. The same thing happen in the Civil Rights movement: yes, there were protests, but there were also many individuals taking action on their own to begin with. For example, Rosa Parks set so much in motion by deciding she was no longer going to give up her bus seat.

Also this week my 11-year-old brought home a national publication teaching elementary students about current events. As I helped her answer the questions, she could feel me bristling when I read, “There are many solutions to the problem. First, the government should . . .” My daughter got a lesson she wasn’t expecting: I spouted off for ten minutes on how the government shouldn’t do anything. It was established to keep America safe–and that was ALL it was established to do–so that everyone else could get to the business of solving each others problems.

But it seems we prefer to have someone force what we want for us, instead of doing the work ourselves.

Governments have NEVER solved problems; only individuals have. So what suffering can you alleviate, what wrong can you right, and what work can you do today? Go!

whose responsibility

Get Book 4 and the rest of the series here.

A student is raising a hand: brace yourself!

Students raising their hands during class? I used to think that was a good thing . . . for the first week of teaching. Since then I’ve discovered that what they say will be as relevant as dandruff shampoo is to Medusa.

We may be in the middle of comparing propaganda during WWII to modern day examples, or breaking down Katharine’s speech at the end of “Taming of the Shrew” when the hand shoots into the air as if some amazing insight has just hit a teenager.

But no.

“Mrs. Mercer! I just saw the Coke truck go by the window. That means it’s refilling the machines and I REALLY need a Mt. Dew to make it through the rest of the day. Can I PLEASE go get a Mt. Dew?”

The kid just finished chugging his Dunkin coffee. The last thing he needs is more caffeine. And if he falls asleep in class without his Mt. Dew, is that really such a bad thing?

Occasionally a student will have something interesting to share. Otherwise . . .

“Can I get my phone? I REALLY need to text my mom. It’s SUPER important! Like, I need to talk to her RIGHT NOW! She’s bringing me Subway for lunch and I want to change my order before she leaves.”

The hope is that their minds are on the topics, but . . .

“Mrs. Mercer, did you know that Joey and me got into a fight back in 5th grade?”
I grit my teeth at Joey and me. “And what does that have to do with identifying archetypes in this novel?”
“Nothing. Just thought you should know. I won the fight, by the way.”

That screeching noise you hear? My trains of thought, derailing a dozen times a day.

Even the sharper kids—ones who usually have something great to write or say—may surprise me with A Random Comment That Initiates Cringing (ARCTIC; these comments leave me cold).

“Mrs. Mercer! What you were saying reminds me—I need to run to the office for something.”
I heave a long, heavy sigh. “And how did my describing Odysseus’s consultation with Circe remind you that you need to run to the office? And for what?”
“I just remembered that I need to talk to guidance about my classes next semester.”
There is no one in guidance who is remotely like the witch Circe. “The next semester which doesn’t start for another two months?”
“Yeah. Can I go right now?”
Perhaps I’m Circe the witch they’re trying to get away from.

Train derailment, crash, explosion . . . I grip my whiteboard marker, the only thing that brings me back to focus as I glare at the student who looks at me oblivious that they’ve just tossed my entire buildup–now a fireball–into a gorge. Through my mind passes the desire to send the student past Scylla, the next monster we’re going to read about.

Image result for scylla in the odyssey

(Cat-scan of my brain when a student interrupts my lesson with an irrelevant comment.)

At that moment I pull out an oldy but a goody–so old they’ve never heard of it. “And what does your need to go to guidance have to do with the cost of tea in China?”

The entire class stares at me, dumbfounded.

See? I can do it to. Albuquerque. Snorkel.

While they, in confusion, try to figure out what I just said, I continue on with the discussion . . . and for my sanity ignore every hand that goes up for the next five minutes.

color of captain's eyesGet Book 1, Forest at the Edge of the World here. Free as a download, $9.25 as a paperback.

 

Books? Thinking? Are those “lit”?

[“Lit,” by the way, is the trendy way to say “cool,” or “neato, daddio.” Just typing that last one is totally not “lit”.]

These lines are what I hope none of my students will ever say about my class:

books thinking never saw before

These lines are also why I often read out loud to them, because even though they’re 10th graders, a few kids had never finished a novel until they took my class.

I worry that books and thinking are becoming as old-fashioned as typewriters and rotary phones. We rarely hear about either much anymore, and when we do it’s, “Hey, remember when we used to think about problems and read all we could before we made judgments? Or am I just remembering a time that never really existed? And am I using the word ‘lit’ correctly?”

Get Book 1, The Forest at the Edge of the World right here. It’s totally lit. (Maybe?)

 

“I’m not good enough.” “No, you’re not. But there’s no one else to do it.”

When the incomparable composer John Williams was shown a cut of “Schindler’s List,” and Steven Spielberg asked to him to compose the score, Williams was so moved that he humbly said, “You need a better composer.” To which Spielberg replied, “I know, but they’re all dead.” Spielberg himself had put off directing the movie for ten years, and tried to get other directors to take it on, partly because he felt inadequate to do the story justice.

I shared this with my students today. We’ve been reading a holocaust memoir, All But My Life, and I told them about rescuers: ordinary people like Oskar Schindler who felt they had to step up and do something more for the Jews. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at short videos about Sir Nicholas Winton, Irena Sendler, and Gail Halvorsen–the candy bomber during the Berlin Airlift. Ok, so he’s slightly after the holocaust and was helping the Germans, but he’s still a great example of someone saying, “Isn’t there something more I can do?”

As I’ve read interviews with these and other rescuers, I’ve picked up on a common concern they each expressed: “But who am I? I’m nothing special. I’m not good enough.” Spielberg and Williams felt the same way, and I certainly do, on a daily basis, I’m sorry to report.

There’s a constant battle in my head. Maybe you’ve got the same in yours: “I’m not smart or good enough to [insert daunting project]. Surely there’s someone better to do this?”

Then there’s another voice that says, often quite unhelpfully, “No, you’re not good enough. But there’s no one else to do it.”

As I explained to my students that we rarely feel up to the tasks before us, I realized that I was giving myself a pep talk.  Daily I realize that I’m not a good enough mother and wife, or a good enough teacher, or a good enough friend, or a good enough Christian, or a good enough writer.

But apparently it doesn’t matter that we don’t know how to help, or fix, or resolve every problem placed before us–still we have to try. We can’t just walk away, we can’t just ignore, and we can’t hope that someone else will step in and take over, because usually no one else will.

Realizing this, we take a deep breath and keep going, flailing as we do and coming up short far too often, but knowing that someone has to do something. And it has to be us.

if I don't do this who will

Defensiveness arises when we suspect we may be wrong

In my experience, those who become defensive and angry in a discussion are those who aren’t sure their position is correct.

They respond with anger when they’re afraid of being found out, when they’re afraid they might be wrong.

That’s always been a good reminder for me when I find my ire raising: something’s not right with my thinking, and it’s up to me to fix it; it’s not up to me to attack someone else.

When in the history of the world has attacking someone with an opposite point of view brought them around to agreement?

disrespectful to tell the truth

“The sky is blue.” We’ve been giving our kids fake news since kindergarten, and why that’s a growing problem

“You’re sophomores now,” I told my new batch of high school students last week, “which means you’re realizing that there’s more going on than you used to think. For example, you’ve been lied to since kindergarten. Answer me this: what color is the sky?”

I’ve written about this debate in my first books, and carry the thread throughout the series, but I had never before asked it of my students. I watched to see what they did with this simple yet odd question. I was not disappointed.

A few shouted, “It’s blue!” because on the second day of school you’re still trying to impress the teacher.

A few squinted, dubious as to what the right answer was, seeing as how I’d spent the last five minutes explaining how we’d be learning to analyze and see “the bottom part of the iceberg.”

(I drew terrible pictures of icebergs on my board. The students asked, “Is that a potato floating in the ocean?” Yeah—see the “whole potato,” my friends.)

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(Imagine if icebergs were potatoes. “Titanic” would have been a very different movie.)

But in each class, a couple students glanced out the window before answering, “White and pale blue.” (It was a humid, muggy day because Maine has been thinking it’s Maryland all summer.)

I replied nothing for a few seconds, watching them process, think, and squirm in worry that I was just standing there, smiling slyly, until I finally I said, “That’s exactly what I was hoping you’d say!”

“What?” they exclaimed. “That it’s blue? Or white? Or . . .” And then more started looking out the window, as if I’d seen something they hadn’t noticed and maybe they should notice it, too.

I could barely contain my excitement—they were re-examining what they assumed was true. I love these moments when their neurons start firing!

Some kids had initially sniggered at those glancing out the window, likely thinking, So dumb—have to look out the window when everyone knows the sky is blue.

Some others had that twinkle in their eye that they were going to show me up by not giving me the standard, “Blue!” answer, which I pounced upon happily.

“So is the sky actually blue?” I pressed.

They glanced at their peers, now unsure.

“It’s only looks blue,” one 15-year-old remembered, albeit backwards, “because it’s reflecting the blue of the ocean.”

“Except,” I said, “I grew up in the deserts in the west, and the sky was very blue there.”

Rapid eye-blinking is a sign that new neurons are being created in students’ minds. That’s a fact I just made up, like the sky is blue.

Eventually I explained how the blue is merely an optical illusion and asked them what other colors the sky can be.

When they realized it can be every color, especially at night (black) and during sunsets (even green and purple) they looked simultaneously intrigued and disturbed by this “new old news”.

And when I told them the sky is different colors on other planets (and that the sun isn’t actually yellow but white, if they could steal a glance at it without hurting their eyes), a few students’ eyes bugged out (a sure sign that neurons are firing—it’s a scientific fact I also just made up).

mars skyMars, 1997, with no blue sky in sight.

Blue sky is fake news. Oh, we didn’t mean to set out feeding our kids lies when they’re little–we’re just trying to simplify their complex world, cover the essentials, and worry about the deeper details later. That’s not a problem.

Except if we neglect to later dig deeper, think harder; then we become lazy thinkers. We don’t want to analyze, to see if everything we’ve assumed is actually true, because it’s not fun or entertaining. (Ask high schoolers what makes a “good class” and they’ll answer with, “It’s fun,” “We don’t have to work hard,” “We play games and watch movies,” or “We can get away with anything.”)

We want entertainment, not enlightenment. 

That’s going to be a problem in the future, as it’s becoming a problem right now. It seems most adults won’t analyze the news, its sources, or its veracity. They’ll take whatever matches their present assumptions, rant on social media for a minute, feel they’ve done something good, then see what’s new on Netflix.

In the meantime, nothing improves, no one notices, and the sky continues to darken without anyone glancing at it to say, “I don’t think that’s a good sign . . .”

color of the sky

Rector Yung studied him. “Dormin, what color is the sky?”

“Blue,” he answered automatically. He didn’t even glance out the window at the blazing orange that leaked into the room, tingeing everything around them in a carroty hue. “Everyone knows that.”

~Book 1, The Forest at the Edge of the World

 

We spend so much in anger and it buys us nothing (Plus a HUGE sneak peek to Book 8, “The Last Day”)

They got into a fight in the cafeteria yesterday, the two boys. One was calling another a derogatory name until the victim finally punched the bully in the head during dinner.

“Did you see any problems with them yesterday? You have both of them,” my husband asked me. They are in one of my American Lit summer classes, but my students generally stare blankly at me because even though I speak English slowly and write all the words on the board, they don’t understand enough English and I don’t understand any Chinese. (I’m afraid it’s been a long three weeks for all of us.) There could have been all kinds of conversations and even threats that I missed out.

Today I observed the two boys, now sitting on opposite sides of the room when they used to sit next to each other. Supposedly one is better off than the other, one has a greater social standing than the other . . .

But I can’t tell.

Not by their clothing, not by their gadgets, not by their faces, or hair, or words.

All I see are two teenagers, and I scratch my head as to what caused one of them to have a swollen eye today.

Was it worth it? If I can’t tell any difference between them, should there be anything to fight over? Even if I could see a difference, why should that be a reason to fight?

I remember reading about a conflict in a tiny country I didn’t even know existed, and how many thousands of people over the years had died fighting over a piece of land and a notion of pride.

How tragic, I thought, that people who live and breathe and love and create and bake and laugh have to die because someone thinks something is more important than something else.

In the world-wide scheme of things, their civil war improves nothing. No one else in the world even knows about their battles, and even if they did, their war is meaningless to the rest of us.

How petty and foolish and tragic.

Then again, the majority of our battles are equally as unnecessary and as inconsequential to the world at large. We spend so much angry effort, and it buys us nothing.

It’s taken me decades to realize that I don’t have to fight. If someone insults me, my family, my heritage, my religion, my friends . . . I can walk away. The few times that I did take the bait and battled for hours or even days, I came away with nothing but more fury and frustration, and a lot of wasted time.

Perhaps there’s something enjoyable about fighting that I don’t understand. Some perverse sense of accomplishment or security or self-righteousness in being able to stomp someone into the ground, either physically or online. But what kind of accomplishment is that, to be the best bully?

I had two American students fist-fight last year, but afterward they became great friends, sitting next to each other in class and frequently writing about their “epic battle” in the rain. They both agreed it was dumb (especially since they were suspended), and that they’d never do it again, but in a strange way, it worked: they got out their aggression and an alliance was formed. They bonded by bashing each other. (I think this may only work with males because most females I know will hold a grudge forever.)

So perhaps occasionallyt a fight does work. But if that were the case all the time, our society would be the friendliest ever in history and social media wouldn’t be a war zone.

I’d rather just walk away. I’ve never once regretted leaving a fight, but I always beat myself up for joining in one, which means I suffered twice.

A voice near the front called, “Guide, what if we fight them off? Defend our lands? Why should we just let them take it all?”

Guide Zenos held his breath as many more calls of, “Let us defend ourselves!” rose up in the arena.

Several of his twelve assistants, seated on chairs to the side of the podium, looked around, startled at the sudden aggressiveness of the Salemites.

But Shem wasn’t surprised. He had long suspected this would happen. Salem had never before faced a direct threat, nor did they know how to deal with the idea of someone simply taking something. That never happened in Salem, so the natural impulse was to fight back.

But the Creator expected more from Salem.

Guide Zenos leaned forward and said, loudly, “NO.”

The arena fell into silent befuddlement.

He let his answer settle in before continuing.

“I know your desire is to not allow anyone to take your homes, but this is not the Creator’s will. Nor, you will remember, are these your homes, or your farms, or your livestock. All of it belongs to the Creator, as it always has. It is His will that you voluntarily leave Salem and retreat to safety. We’ve known this would be our fate for the past one hundred-sixty-five years, ever since Guide Pax saw this time coming. This shouldn’t be a surprise. We also know that Guide Gleace saw that no weapons of any kind should be taken—”

He couldn’t complete his sentence for the outcry that arose.

“No weapons?!” was the only phrase he could distinguish before the din grew too loud. Many were demanding to be armed, while many others were just as adamantly reminding them that was against the prophecy.

Another voice near the front shouted, “But what if this isn’t the Last Day? What if it’s just a preliminary attack? What if we have to rebuild once they leave or we destroy them?”

Shem sighed. He’d hesitated making any declaration that the Last Day was near, or ‘around the corner,’ as Mahrree had begged him to know just that morning. He didn’t feel that was his announcement to make.

But as he watched tens of thousands of Salemites, who he’d always known to be a peaceful and obedient people suddenly become agitated and even irate, he knew it was because of the spirit that came before the army of Idumea.

The Refuser’s influence was already there, stirring up those whose faith wasn’t quite as strong.

Shem said a silent prayer, asking if—

The answer came too forcefully to deny, and he had to grip the podium to remain upright. Staring down at his notes, he could no longer find his place because the words he needed to say were repeating in his head and would continue until he spoke them.

He swallowed hard and said, “The Last Day is coming. It will be upon us shortly. Very shortly.”

He didn’t shout or raise his voice. Yet the feeling of his words carried over the entire arena and stopped every tongue. The sudden silence was profound.

Just to be sure they heard him correctly, Guide Zenos said in the same clear voice, “The Last Day is coming. It will be upon us shortly. Very shortly. Defending ourselves is contrary to the Creator’s will. If we follow the admonitions of our past guides, we will be preserved to see the hand of the Creator fight this battle for us.

But,” he continued in a sharper tone, “if we insist on fighting, we will fall before the army. What’s the point of losing your lives trying to keep a house or preserve a farm? The ancient temple site is and will remain a secure site. Should any danger approach it, I have full confidence the Creator will send a way to secure it again. He has promised us, through the words of many guides, that He’ll fight our battle. The Deliverer will come before the Creator’s Destroyer. I think we’ve all heard that before, haven’t we?”

Before him on the benches, thousands of men, women, and children squirmed worriedly, restlessly.

“My dear Salemites, I’ve been in battle. It’s not romantic nor heroic. It’s terrifying. Tragic. Painful. If the Creator says He will do my fighting for me, then I happily accept His offer. Each of you would be wise to do so as well.”

A man rose to his feet. “And what if we don’t? What if we choose to fight instead?”

“Then you fight alone,” Shem warned him. “Now, I’ll do nothing to prevent you. Salem is still a free land. You may choose what you’ll do, but I promise now that those who stay to fight the army will die. You simply cannot win. Idumeans are more powerful and more desperate, and they care nothing for anyone’s lives but their own. The Creator will not help you, because if you choose to fight, you choose against His will and you forfeit His protection.”

There was considerably more squirming in his audience.

“But I also promise,” he changed his tone yet again, “that if you follow the words of the guides, if you go with your families to the ancient site, you will be in the Creator’s care. I’m not advising you to surrender to Lemuel Thorne; I’m advising you to surrender your will to the Creator. Let Him finish this for us.”

He thought it would be enough, that the choice was obvious.

But apparently several hundred Salemites, mostly men, didn’t agree.

The worth of battered books, and us (plus a sneak peek into Book 8)

I woke up dreaming of a battered book. I’d been thumbing through it and wincing that poor-quality sticky notes had left yellow squares on pages, along with what I suspected was coffee or soda splotches. And that brown smear? Oh, I hoped it was chocolate.

I sighed in frustration. Not that long ago the book was brand new, but it had suffered from living in a student’s backpack for a few months.

The dream was so vivid probably because I recently went through my classroom novels and grumbled that books which I had purchased at the beginning of the year were now filthy and being held together by . . . sheer determination?

But the words that went through my mind as I woke from my dream were, “So what? The words are still readable, the story still wonderful. It’s worth isn’t lessened because the book’s been misused.

Abused text

I’ve met a lot of people who have been treated horribly, yet have beautiful stories to tell, maybe because of the mistreatment. They hold together through sheer determination, which makes them even more valuable.

 

Young Pere scoffed quietly. “I know what you’re suggesting, but who would want someone like me? After all I’ve done and been through?”

“No one’s perfect, Young Pere. Everyone has less-than-impressive moments. We all hope someone will forgive us of those moments and let us move on. Could you love someone who made mistakes in their past but feels about them now the way you feel about yours?

He pondered that. “I think . . . I think I could.”

~Book 8–The Last Day–coming Summer 2018

The hardest, toughest, scariest, best year I’ve ever endured: my first year as a 10th grade teacher (plus another sneak peek into Book 8)

“You’re gonna miss me, aren’t you, Mrs. Mercer?” a student asked me yesterday.

“You big goober, of course I’m going to miss you.” But I didn’t say the first three words out loud. (At least I don’t think I did.)

But I meant I would miss him, to my surprise. Back in autumn when I thought about this last week of school, I imagined myself dancing triumphantly out the doors having conquered my first year of teaching high school.

But I don’t think I’m going to be dancing tomorrow.

I started teaching the last week of September 2017, three weeks into the year. I had no training, no prep, no syllabus, and no real idea what I was in for. I’d taught college writing for a dozen years, but that is NOT the same as 10th grade high school. Not at all.

I knew the school was desperate, or else why would they have hired me and said, “They’ve had a rough three weeks. Just . . . mom them.”

Oh, I can do that. No problem.

But these weren’t my kids—

No, scratch that.

They were MY kids.

Last summer I had the weirdest sensation that I was going to find “MY kids.” That feeling emerged between moments of despair that I was leaving the greatest neighborhood in the state of Utah, and the greatest LDS ward (church congregation) in the world, and would be driving 2700 miles to a place I didn’t know, leaving behind half my kids and all of my friends.

I shed tears daily that summer, packing up our house, driving for six days cross country, settling in an unfamiliar rental house in Maine at the end of June, trying to find new work since I shut down my Etsy shop . . .

I’d read the job listings at the high school where my husband worked and saw the posting for an English 10 teacher. I’d quit teaching college a few years ago and was looking for a new career path, but that post gnawed at me. I knew they had already hired someone, but unexpectedly the words drifted in my head, “He had better be good to MY kids. Why did they give MY kids to him?

But they’re not my kids!

Then the teacher was fired two weeks in, and an emergency substitute brought in. “She’d better be good to MY kids . . .”

But they’re not my kids!

Then I got a phone call from the school. Would I be interested in taking over as Permanent Substitute?

Finally, I get to take care of MY kids–

Who keeps saying that?!

It’s a good thing I was so naïve, because knowing what I know now, I would have turned down the offer in September. Except that I needed to find MY kids.

The first morning that I stood in front of my first English 10 class, I thought, “Ah, here are MY kids!

I knew them. Already. Names would come later, but their faces were familiar. And as I learned their stories over the course of the year, I’d think, “I already knew that somehow. Because you’re MY kids.”

The same thing happened with the next classes, and creative writing, and advisor, and AP Lit—I knew them.

And man, were they ready for me.

I mean, they were ready to push and pull and yank and try me in ways I’ve never before been tried. This has been, hands down, THE hardest, toughest, scariest, best year I’ve ever endured.

I’ve never worked so hard, read so much, researched so deeply, looked so near and far for what to do and teach and say. I’d come home at 3pm and would usually put in another 5 hours of work each night and spend my weekends trying to learn how to teach high schoolers.

Some days were great—lessons and discussions took off better than I could have hoped. (I discovered my kids really like to write on the white-board with colored markers. And get treats. They’re just big 1st graders.)

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Ok, more talented than mere 1st graders. I left this 10th grader’s work up for a couple of days because it was so beautiful. “On thin ice.”

But a lot of days were discouraging, and I’d think, “So I totally botched that. Why in the world did I think I could do this? Wait, wasn’t I going to find a new career besides teaching?” I had “one of those days” just last week, a they-need-to-hire-someone-else moment.

There were days when I knew I wouldn’t make it to June. The entire month of October my guts were in a knot of anxiety. I was going to fail MY kids, I just knew it.

Administrators would call me occasionally, asking how things were going. “Fine!” I’d chirrup, even though I had students much larger than me insisting I couldn’t make them work. That never happened when I taught college.

I still remember the new faculty meeting we had in November, when Mr. R. said, “We want each of you to wake up in the morning excited about teaching here!”

I don’t know if he could read the anguish in my eyes—I had just sent my first student to the office, and he was suspended for a week. I had failed MY kid.

But I smiled back, although I felt akin to drowning in the ocean, and Mr. R. was in a lifeboat peering over the edge and asking, “Doing all right?”
And I answered, “Swimmingly! No problems!”

My thumbs up would be the last anyone ever saw of me.

But somehow I got through it with the belligerent and mean and vulgar students, and the depressive boys, and the moody girls, and the ones who just wanted to hang out and talk, and the boys who showed me pictures of their trucks and lobster boats and the gadgets they were buying for the upcoming season, and the girls who told me about their horses and kittens and farms and lambs, and the kids who wrote about families breaking up, and drugs ruining lives, and alcohol wrecking another day, and all I could think was, “Oh, MY kids. Oh, my heart.”

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Kids, be nice! How many times I have said, “Be nice”? (And Marilyn, you ARE amazing. Can I erase this now?)

They don’t know that I prayed for them, daily. Always as a group, but frequently by name. I’d ask God how to help this boy, or that girl, or that parent. Sometimes I had such a long list to go through at night that I’d fall asleep before I finished, and would wake up thinking, “Who’d I stop on? Whoever I didn’t get to, can You help me say the right thing to them?”

One of my classes is taking a final right now, some staring glumly at the page, others writing frantically, and here I sit typing this up and trying not to get misty-eyed as I realize that after this they won’t be MY kids anymore.

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(Mr. R,just ignore that a certain student is wearing his baseball hat in class–again.)

They’ll be someone else’s kids in 11th grade. (Because they darn well better not fail so we’re stuck with each other again next year.) Some may still come by my room to give me updates about their lives, and maybe some will return for AP Lit (I’ve been hired to teach next year, so I guess I found my career after all). A couple even call me Mama Mercer, so task #1 is complete.

My kids will move on.

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Guys, you’re supposed to be WRITING about the pond, not going INTO it. Guys?

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Please nobody ask about the frogs. Just don’t.

Surely next year’s sophomores could never become MY kids. I mean, how many kids can I have? (Don’t answer that, because already I’m planning how to do things better for MY new kids next year.)

And yes, I’ll miss MY kids, because I had no idea how badly I wanted to be their teacher. God knew, and He’s probably smiling smugly down on me because, once again, He knows me better than I know myself. He shoved me clear across the country to fulfill a dream I forgot I had: to teach high school English. Now I just need to get a whole lot better at it.

I doubt I’ll dance out of here tomorrow once my grades are submitted. I’ll walk through silent hallways and empty parking lots, hoping I didn’t fail my kids too badly or too often, and probably quietly crying as I did last June, but for entirely different reasons.

Because, dang it, I am going to miss those goobers.

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You have AN awesome summer, too! (See? I failed to teach her “AN awesome”. Crud.)

SNEAK PEEK into Book 8:

Lemuel concluded that falling asleep was impossible. His mind was haunted with visions of Perrin Shin in a general’s uniform. He stood with his arms folded and that one menacing eyebrow, arched.

Behind him stood her, with her head tilted in that annoying and admonishing manner all teachers possessed that indicated, Now you’ve gone and done it.

~Book 8, The Last Day, coming Summer 2018

 

Book 8 IS COMING THIS SUMMER! (I promise, really–just hang in there, friends)

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Sorry I can’t be more specific with the date. I need to finish this year of teaching in June.
Then prep for and teach three weeks of summer school.
Then move into our fourth house in just one year (a personal best [worst] for number of moves for us).
Then finish editing Book 8 (all of my beta readers have now sent me their suggestions).
THEN publish and get this into your hands before school starts again in September. (Writing is a hobby, as you might have figured out, and not my full-time job. I squeeze it in when I have spare moments.)

I hope you’ll feel this last installment was worth the wait.

(If not, remember that you probably picked it up for free, so I’ll give you your money back.)