Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I'm avoiding my blog all week because I don't want to write about what's on my heart.  What was probably going to be a "this-is-what-I-did-all Sunday" post quickly turned into something else when I checked Facebook late Sunday night.  I found out that one of my former AP kids died tragically.

I'm just in shock.  This post isn't going to be well-written or thoughtful.  It's going to be a bunch of stream-of-consciousness drivel because it feels too difficult to sift thought into something neat.  Losing students is a strange and difficult part of my job.  Experience thus far has shown me that it's a part of my job, though I hate it with a kind of anger I can't express in words.  (What part of my teaching credential was supposed to prepare me for dealing with death?  Teaching is supposed to be about reams of paper and overheads, sharpened pencils and seating charts.  Not this.)  Death has been, unfortunately, prevalent.  In my student teaching year, a sophomore from one of the English classes I observed committed suicide.  I lost a Drill Team member slowly to cancer a few years later.  The day before Henry was born, a student died at school playing basketball.  There have been others--not quite so close to me, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some in my current state--and now this young man who graduated in 2007.  It's just all wrong.  I'm angry and I'm upset and all week I can't help but look differently at my students because I know that there will be more of this to come, and there's nothing I can do about it.

That sounds so pessimistic, so jaded, and I feel like writing it down is maybe wrong.  Should that just be how I look at it?  It's heartbreaking, thinking about how full of promise a kid is in his or her senior year of high school and how unfair it is that some lives are cut short.  I hate that some kids don't feel like they have answers when life gets hard.  I hate that diseases of all sorts strike without any deference to age.  I hate that there are some problems in the real world (and inside people's heads) that are just too much to bear.  I hate it for these kids; I hate it for their families.  I wish I could keep them in the bubble of high school, the same way I wish I could shield Addie and Hank from any pain.  I wish my students could be full of hope and an open future forever. I wish it were possible to connect to more kids on a level that meant something--or at least that more kids were able to have such a connection with any adult on campus.  Something.  I wish there was a way to hang on to kids.  Our job as teachers is to do what we can and then let go, and it frankly it sucks.

If I ever had doubts about my connection to kids, what they really mean to me, this is a good indication that I care more than I'd like to let on.  Darn it if they don't all give back to me just as much as I try to give them.  Most of them don't even know.  They think I don't see them, that I don't hear them. I do, even when I can't let on. As a parent I'm just reeling.  This young man who died had everything going for him; he had connections with so many friends and in the community.  Death doesn't respect any kind of social or geographic boundary.  The senselessness of it is hard to swallow; it cuts and tears like a corn chip, accidentally swallowed whole.  As with so many bad things that happen, there's no logic to it.  As one of my colleagues said at lunch today, you just can't know what's going on inside someone else's home, or someone else's head.  I'm sad and I'm angry.

I remember driving back from a student funeral a few years ago and taking a wrong turn to my house.  I ended up one neighborhood over and it took me a while to find my way out.  My sense of direction was so skewed from the shock and the irrationality of such a thing that I felt like I was wandering.  I feel that same disorientation now.  (And these events confirm for me that my feelings about removing myself from a mock funeral last year were well-founded.  Real loss is hard enough to bear, too familiar.  I'm glad I didn't go through with a feigned ceremonial loss because now I'll be going to another real funeral.)  I look at my AP class all week and I can feel the empty hole where this young man sat.  I can see the entire class in my head just as they were that senior year, where everyone sat, what everyone said.  I can see him, vividly, laughing and joking with his friends, being just this side of inappropriate in the way that makes teachers want to laugh when they know they shouldn't.  I remember his smile.  I remember him using humor to lift the spirits of others in class, or to poke fun at his buddies.  I remember him being witty and clever.  I hate that he's gone.  I'd hate to lose any of them.

Facebook has lit up with tributes to him--beautiful and painful things that his friends are feeling.  They feel so badly that they didn't say to him what was on their hearts before he was gone.  I take comfort in the theory that he did know.  He was blessed to have so many good friends on campus--he touched so many lives that I am sure he had a sense of it, at least at some point.  I feel like "my" kids are hurting, reading their posts.  The maternal side of me wishes there was something I could do, but I know there's nothing.  All I can do is keep those students--those new adults who are now facing a distinctly adult issue--in my heart and in my prayers.  If any of you are reading this, I want you to know I love you and I'm so sorry for your loss.  I know what he meant to you.

It's just sad.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry to hear that. I can't imagine what you must go through when losing a student. :-(