The Privilege of Teaching: Witnessing Goodness

Today, in class, one of my students who typically is very withdrawn/antisocial did the most incredible thing. No hyperbole. It was truly the sweetest and kindest unsolicited thoughtful act I’ve ever seen someone do. 

Backstory: I have taught this student for years and he has never seemed to connect very well with other classmates, no matter the size of the group. At the school where I teach, quirky students aren’t exactly unusual and the culture is one of general acceptance, but this fellow always struck me as an outlier among a group of outliers. I mean, his classmates like him well enough and are generally nice/tolerant towards him, but his disconnection from peers was concerning. I’ve worried about him over the years I’ve had him in class, but he also is mostly in his own world and has never seemed to mind the disconnect. He’s that guy that is always staring off into the distance and distracted when we’re talking. . .

Story: So today, as we were transitioning from lunch to class-time and kids were filtering into the room, he turned to the three students that were in the room and started talking to them. Now, sometimes, when he does this, it’s kind of like you’re picking up mid-stream-of-thought. As in: he’s already had the 1st half of the conversation in his head and you have to catch up really fast in order to make any sense of what he’s talking about . . . I could tell that the three listeners were expecting that kind of conversation, but instead this happened:

“Hey, so a few days ago in one of my classes, one of my friends was really down on himself about a lot of things, and it got me thinking. I mean, none of my friends see themselves the way I see them, and I wish that they could see all the awesome qualities in themselves the way that I do . . . so I decided to tell people how I see them. So, I wrote you each something.”

He proceeded to give out POEMS to each of the three people he was speaking to . . . and I got to read one (with permission, of course) and OH MY DEAR SWEET LORD IN HEAVEN.

I cannot even begin to do justice to the magnitude of this act in my description; this would have been unbelievably thoughtful coming from ANYONE, but is rendered even more remarkable by this student’s usually-detached nature. I am trying to figure out how on earth I can make you understand the UTTER and complete sweetness of this gesture.  He wrote individualized, BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, page-long (like 8 stanzas each!), RHYMING poems describing all the unique ways he found his classmates special and about how much they brought to his world with their personalities. He gave SPECIFIC EXAMPLES about ways that they have made his life in school better and applauded different aspects of their specific personality that he appreciates. I MEAN. I CAN’T EVEN ~ 

Suffice it to say: I very nearly cried on the spot.

The poem-recipients were equally as floored and so touched. It clearly made their day, and I was just so thankful for the reminder of how wonderful people can be, even when it is least expected.

I just wanted to share, because observing this whole scenario made me unbelievably happy in my heart.

Moments

My life is a kaleidoscope of shifting and fragmented shapes and colors. . . very interesting and transitory and wildly confusing, but all part of the pattern, I guess. Now, I usually avoid posting without clear purpose. Yes, a diatribe makes its way in here or there, but they are typically rather pointed (which is kind of like a purpose!). Otherwise I try not to meander conversationally through a random array of topics, but at this point, that is my sole option, mostly because my life is full of lots of random things right now.

Allow me to share a few quotable moments with you from the last two days. . .

1.) Lingerie shopping for my current roommate’s bachelorette party, I took the rare opportunity of mentally unoccupied time to call my mom back since she was reverting to curt e-mails and passively annoyed facebook messages.

Exhibit A: Facebook

Exhibit B: Email

Since the e-mails were flirting with the edge of frustrated (pirouetting across), I decided it was really time to call back. And, hey, how hard could it be to look at filmy little night-gowns and sustain a coherent conversation at the same time? I’ve done this before (this isn’t my first rodeo), I can handle a little multi-tasker shopping. SO, I called, we chatted, it was highly lovely (in all seriousness). There’s no better time for a long involved conversation than  when hunting through mountains of lace boy-shorts…

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HOWEVER, as I rifled through racks of enough red lace and black satin to do the cast of Moulin Rouge proud, my mother shared an interesting opinion on lingerie; not her own. Right after I said something about the astronomical price of a nightie, she said, “It’s like your Dad says, lingerie is the biggest waste of money. . . you only wear it for like two minutes before it comes right off!“. . . Welcome to quotable moment #1.

2.) Giving birth has been on my mind quite a bit, mostly because EVERYONE is having babies right now, but ESPECIALLY since one of my dearest friends just gave birth to a new baby boy yesterday!!! It’s insane. After weekly visits with him as an every expanding bump in my friend’s life, little Phedda (my in utero nickname for him) is flying solo.

I just got home from meeting him for the first time. Let me tell you, he is PERFECT. And I am in flat-out awe of his mom. Honestly, the whole birthing process has to be the most wretched experience in existence. If you weren’t already planning on sending a Mother’s Day card (May 13th, everyone), you should now plan on it.

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Jen and I are close enough friends for her to tell me some of the painful details. Her 23-or-so hours of labor were definitely not without cringe-inducing complications. . . so I asked, “So, did you end up having the epidural?” and, she, being the incredible person that she is, smiled and  just said: “No.”  I think my jaw must have dropped. Then her husband chimed in that my dear friend, my dear INSANE friend, had actually WALKED across the street from the Birthing Center to the Hospital while fully dilated and having hard-core contractions, in order to deliver little P.  Now, its been a long day, so I’m not exactly eloquent at this point, so I asked my all-consuming question: WHY?! It was then that her wonderful husband smiled, took her hand and said proudly, “Because she’s an Amazon warrior princess.” Welcome to quotable moment #2.

3/4.) As you know, I have an affinity for petticoats, and dresses which require them. . . 

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Well, yesterday, I happened to be wearing a dress-petticoat combo and a friend of mine walked up to me and said, “You know what you look like? In the nicest way possible you look like one of those cupcake dolls. . . you know the ones I mean?”

cupcake doll

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Laughing, I turned around to one of my seniors, who asked me why I was laughing. . . so I explained the situation, and, without missing a beat, my student responded, “That is how I always figured you entered this world.” Welcome to quotable moment number 3 (a two-fer).

5.) I have always resisted classroom pets. Not because I hate pets, but because there is usually enough work to be done in the classroom without adding in pet-care routines. Last Friday, however, I caved. Enter my two new little goldfish, Josephine and Napoleon. Aren’t they cute?

Once they were safely installed in my classroom (after a precarious car ride with a very large open tank), my students welcomed them excitedly. One student asked me their names, and when I responded “Napoleon and Josephine”, he started laughing and said, “Oh man, about halfway through the year you should get a little fishbowl and exile Napoleon!” There you have my last quotable moment of the day, folks.

My life is one wonderfully fun kaleidoscope, don’t you think?