Friday, August 20, 2010

130 Names

The sun came out on Wednesday, after 31 days of rain. What did it take to elicit the past three days of gorgeous weather? The first three days of school, of course.

The weekend is here and the first week of students has come and gone. In the midst of learning 130 names, I have also been trying to learn 130 personalities, strengths, weaknesses.

130 stories.

Today we wrote biopoems in class, poems that ask the students to share a little more about themselves with each line. It starts easy…three adjectives to describe themselves. I forbid words like “nice” or “good”…boring words that don’t really tell me anything about them.

And from there we proceed, line by line, writing poems that tell me the things they love, that they need, that they hope for, that they fear.

Some make jokes about needing more sleep.
Some play it safe, saying they love texting.
Some are brutally honest, admitting they hope to some day they can meet an absent parent, or both.

It’s sobering to be back in the classroom after a summer away.

I have felt stressed with moving, trying to find a job, our lack of housing. But I’m an adult, with a fair amount of control over the situation, and the assurance and security that things will come together, sooner or later.

Some of these students are in the midst of vast brokenness…with little control or hope to find assurance in. Their poems seem to cry for sunlight in the midst of a very long rain.

I can’t give them sunlight, and telling them to “enjoy the rain” seems trite in the midst of their very real conflicts. And so I do the only thing I think will help: I tell them my story.

I reveal it in small pieces over the course of the year, and the students who are looking for that glimpse, that promise of sunlight, begin to listen closely. Sometimes they say nothing. Other times they linger as the rest of the class leaves. And a select few will seek out moments for thoughtful conversations.

“Are you sure?” they question, not convinced that there is actually any hope beyond their darkness.


On Wednesday night, after that first glorious day of sunshine, I received a phone call from a former student. She has reveled in more than her fair share of darkness, and she has questioned me more than I’ve ever been pressed my whole life.

But this phone call held no questions, it only held hope--a glimmer of hope that has been fought for over the past eleven months.

And with that gem clenched tightly, I press forward into another school year, prepared for whatever may come.


  1. I think this is my favorite post you've ever written lady.

    I'm so glad you're back in a classroom - it is clearly where you belong.

  2. I'm struck by two things in this post:

    1. what a kick ass teacher you are and
    2. that you're wearing a fleece and jeans in the classroom on the first week back to work. I'll be sweating my preggo arse off in mine next week, wearing a the least amount of clothing professionally possible!


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  4. I wish that more teachers were like you. I love that you care, and I'm sure that most students really appreciate it :)