I could feel the familiar mixture of
at the slumped over head and shoulders,
conscientiously opting to twist the pen
between his relaxed fingers
instead of making them dance across the pages
of the bare and empty notebook pages.
I rest my hand on drooped shoulders
A split second thought to confront this
offense he deems as casual
But instead mark the encounter
with a verbal promise to address
the situation later.
And when the bell rings and
bodies shuffle toward the doorway,
stooped shoulders lethargically
gather themselves from their resting place
and make their way toward me.
“Ms. Younge?” he ventures in a tiny voice
that feels like it’s a million miles away
and begging for someone to help it return.
Eyes heavy with unshed tears flit quickly
toward my face and then away again.
Staring into the expanse of the room,
a slow, rattled breath is drawn in slowly.
And I simply wait.
Take your time.
You can tell me.
“I’ve been getting D’s and F’s for so long in reading
that I’ve convinced myself that I just can’t do it.”
Breath forced out of me by a constricting chest
as my own eyes brim over with tears.
Had I become part of a cycle
that had broken down this young man?
Did the D’s and F’s from my class
Nail permanent marks of failure
onto the coffin of dead dreams of his life?
But all I could do for the moment was stand there,
thinking about how could I tell this student
that without HIM I would be lost.
There’d be no meaning to early mornings
and the way the heart can grow weary
with each days burdens brought on
by outside forces beyond my control,
or the struggles to just get some to understand
what it means for a child to have the gift
of reading and the rewards of knowledge.
That without his work, his effort, his dreams–
If he lost his will,
his belief that he can and will be better
I would have stopped convincing myself a long time ago
that all battles for my students were worth fighting.
I guess, too, that I would have stopped smiling–
But I can’t in this moment find the right words.
All that I could do was transcend the broken channel
of communication into action.
So I hugged him tightly to me.
And I told him that this year would be different,
that his grades were not a reflection of who
he was, but rather the effort he had convinced himself
so long ago was all he was capable of giving.
Though not a change I knew would happen overnight,
I hoped to plant the seed that if watered just right
Could formulate the right ingredients
to mutually prevent destruction.