April 2018

Sunday, October 17, 2010

P.S. 8 Who will love me?

Last weekend a university student who graduated from a high school where I work committed suicide. Everywhere I go, whether folks knew her or not, people seem shaken by it. Like any high school teacher, I've seen too many teen deaths. My students have died in cars, in the water, and on the football field. Suicide, direct or through mental diseases like anorexia, feel the hardest to me.

An excellent teacher who works at the school, having difficulty elliciting any excitement from her students in one class, asked them to write her a letter. One student wrote, "Yesterday my friend's sister died. My mom has breast cancer and is really sick. My grandma can't remember anything anymore. If everyone dies, who will take care of me? Who will love me?"

A few years ago when I was teaching a class, near the beginning of the year, one of my freshmen asked me if I ever cried in class. I think maybe they were being exasperating and I suspect that at times they'd made their previous teacher cry. I thought about it and responded truthfully, "Only when a student dies." Several of them, incredulous, asked, "You've had a student die?" and I responded, truthfully (as is my nature) again, "Most years someone dies." They were quiet and didn't raise the subject again. I forgot about it.

At the end of first semester, students were brainstorming what we had to celebrate from first semester. Students said things like, "We are deeper writers" and "We know how to read harder texts." One student said, "We are like brothers and sisters for one another." Then another student said, "No one has died so far this year." They were all quiet and nodded. I added it to the list.

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