Part of my new job is subbing every once in a while for the teachers of our after-school program, and today for the first time I subbed at a K-8 school on the side of town where I taught. I felt a filling bit of belonging, interacting with kids who could have been my students’ younger brothers or sisters. And when it came time for kids to be picked up, it turns out that at least one of them was.
He smelled like cigarettes but looked like marijuana. When I caught his attention, he said “oh hey, miss!” but not much more. He waited while his mother signed his little sister out, not looking at me but not avoiding me, and then left quietly with them. I wanted to grab him, hug him, hold his head between my hands, make him stare me in the eyes.I’m sure the first thing he remembered was being kicked out of school for the second time, since that was the last time he saw me. All I could think of were what felt like thousands of days of trying to figure out how to teach
with him in the room
. And the half-relief, half-disappointment whenever he didn’t show up. And the guilt for mentioning that he smelled like weed to an administrator walking by (tragically, he’d been sitting, focused, at the time).
Clicking around on Teach For Us, you can read so many wonderful but simple stories of tension and resolution, problem and solution, beginning and end. I could maybe write this as one of those stories, if I kind of bent it into an arc and twisted up the ends so they lay neatly; I’ve certainly done so on this blog before. Maybe writing that way is part of making sense of things, or part of the art of blogging, or maybe the art of manipulating stories so they fit in small boxes with one-word labels. Right now, though, I can’t bring myself to bend or twist anything, shave off bits and add bits so this piece fits better. It’s not a moral or a lesson learned or even much of a story. It’s a thing that happened.
Maybe I need to make this a poetry blog.