Wednesday, November 10, 2004

about love

Today was something special. Part of that I think is because I had a massage yesterday, the thing I'm now doing to deal with the stress of this job, and it's helping center me, making me more open and therefore more available. I know that I'm standing up straighter and tears are coming for appropriate reasons. Like right now, watching the story of Pat Taylor on the news.
First thing this morning a student came to see me, right after she'd been to see another one of her teachers. It's important to say that this other teacher is the same teacher (art), who, among other kindnesses, is letting one of her students, a 21 year old guy (not one of my students but a friend of one of mine) who hasn't passed the leap yet, come to me for tutoring during fourth period instead of making him stay in her class.
Let me start again. Please clear the palate.
First thing this morning a student came to see me, right after she'd been to see her art teacher. It wouldn't be right to tell this girl's story, even anonymously. I will just say her parents are out of the picture and she's responsible for raising her two children and a younger sister, and she's about to be evicted from her apartment. Both the art teacher and I sent her to our school's full-time social worker, a compassionate man. During my planning period (fourth period) I went to see him to see how things turned out and he said they'd "found" $150 to give her to make the part of the rent she didn't have. I asked him if there were some sort of discretionary fund or something and he was quiet for a moment, looking at me in my eyes the whole time, and said no. He wouldn't talk about where the money's coming from but when I asked him if I could help somehow he told me to go see our principal, which was when I realized that there was no fund, just people, teachers, staff, giving money to help people like my student this morning. It is never talked about. There's never a passing of the hat or a memo or any mention of it at all. It's all done completely under the radar. I'm glad I was talking with a social worker at that time because he knew just how to wait for me to stop crying. It overwhelmed me to think about how kind these people at this school are. I love them. He told me that this girl had been through this same difficulty last year and that eventually her parents had gotten things together and she'd gotten her hope back, but that now things are back as they were before, and she's alone with it. As I think I've said before, my father was a volatile and violent alcoholic. I was a hopeless child too. And though our circumstances are different on the surface, hers much much much more severe, still the deep thing that is so heartbreaking is the loss of hope. The girl came to my room about four times today, reporting on how things were going with the social worker. The first time, when she came to tell me her story initially, she cried, though she hated to, and told me so. She tried so hard not to. That hurt my heart. But each time after that first time she looked a little brighter. She kept apologizing for not coming to school more regularly. I don't think I have to make a comment about that, except to say it killed me.
And then another thing happened. A student I've written about here before, the girl who lost her mother in June, the girl who sings and dances, who is so precious, she came to class with her lovely grandmother (her dear mother's mother) today, carrying a drop-out form, intending to leave and go to another school. Oh but I don't want her to go. And her grandmother doesn't want her to go either. After a tearful few minutes they had to go about their business and the grandmother kissed me, and I kissed her. And I told the girl not to forget about singing and dancing, about the beautiful heart she has, and her gifts. Then she started tearing up. Anyway, that was during first period. In fact, both things happened during first period, now that I think of it. What a day. So during my fourth period planning period I went to check with the social worker about the other girl, which was when I had that emotional encounter (by the way, I told the social worker about my father), and on my way through the office came across the grandmother (which means she'd been there all day) sitting on a green sofa, waiting for her granddaughter who was in with a counselor. The grandmother told me it is possible that the counselor would talk our girl into staying. I sat on the sofa next to this grandmother for about twenty minutes, during which time we conversed about all manner of things, but all of the things were spiritual and about serendipity. She sings in a gospel group.
I guess I'm going over the top here, but another huge thing happened. During my planning period, at the beginning, when I was on my way downstairs to see the social worker, which led to all the things I've mentioned above, I saw the tall mean girl sitting by herself in an alcove on the second floor, looking low. I asked her if she was okay. She seemed surprised that I'd speak to her. She said she didn't feel well. Just then a teacher who has been there 38 years was walking by. I asked him if there was a nurse's room or a place where this girl could lie down (I still don't know her name). He was so concerned about her, AFTER 38 YEARS HE WAS SO CONCERNED ABOUT HER, that he walked down the steps with me and her to ask after the nurse and to show us where the room was. After we got her settled she raised her head and looked at me and said thank you.
I feel so honored to be working at this school.
I haven't nearly explained how it was today. It's probably too soon. In addition to all that, my classes were wonderful. We're taking a creative leap, combining literature and writing, and they're giving themselves over to it, and I feel that terrible responsiblity of holding something precious in my hands, afraid I'm too rough and I'll crush it.

Love, Melanie


2 Comments:

Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

WOW! I really believe, and aways have, that it's what we do outside of the classroom that makes the biggest difference. Thank you Melanie, for sharing this with us.

8:21 PM  

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