Could You Eulogize a Student?

I am sorry for the morbid focus of my blog, but the past few days have been  difficult ones for my small town in Maine, and my blog reflects my current thinking and experience. This week, on the first day of their junior year, one of my son’s classmates was in a horrific accident on her way to school. She could not survive her injuries and passed away the next day. Friends, family, teammates were left shocked and grieving. Needless to say, the staff at the high school found themselves comforting students and one another. Our students are our kids, so I knew they were hurting deeply, too.

That evening a candlelight vigil was held on the soccer field where she was the star goalie. A thousand members of our small community came out to honor her life. When asked if anyone would like to speak about this wonderful child I was in awe of the teachers who were able to hold it together, and share remembrances. In fact, it was a teacher who was the first to speak.

Their words told the students, parents, and community members who were in attendance…“I notice you.”  “I care about you.” They were comforting, amusing, and healing.  Certainly some students are much easier to remember and regale, and this student had touched the lives of many. As I listened it got me thinking about all of our students. Could we share anecdotes, memories, or eulogies for each of our students? Do we wish we had captured more memories? Are there some we might wish we had noticed more?

I hope that no teacher ever finds themselves in the situation that these educators were suddenly immersed in. Trying to find the words to convey the essence, the importance of a child’s life is not easy…layer that with shock and grief and it becomes heroic. But the power of those words to lift up that child in the eyes of friends and family was indescribable.

We’ve all heard the advice, “Don’t wait until I’m gone to tell me how much you care.” It’s so true. We tell our students often how much we do care, how much we love them..but sometimes we get so busy we may not notice or note those anecdotes that exemplify and reflect the depth and truth of those words. The teachers who spoke the most comforting words had specific stories and narratives that invited vivid images and fond memories.  Saying “she was kind” was one thing…sharing examples of how she helped someone by relaying words and actions was another.

As we embark on a new school year, I hope that all of us are able to tell each student how much we care about them. May we find time to jot down words, deeds, and remembrances of each student we have in our classes. May we truly notice those idiosyncrasies that others will immediately relate to.  May we capture some of the comments and quotes from our interactions that reflect their voices. May we find opportunities to share those with their parents while they can still hug their child and appreciate them in person. May our students feel noticed, acknowledged, and loved by every teacher they have.

May we never find that the words we wish we had said, were left unheard by those who needed to hear them most.

What’s On My Book Radar?

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WET CEMENT: A MIX OF CONCRETE POEMS by Bob Raczka

I am always looking for ways to turn students on to poetry, this book is one of my latest favorites. I love how these poems twist and turn across the page. This collection of poetry shows how fun the creative use of words can be! An incredible mentor text for thinking about ideas, structure, word choice, voice, and importance. Kids who are intimidated by the stoic nature of poems may find this playful text a welcome invitation into the world of poetry.  A Maine Student Book Award (MSBA) nominee that I hope many readers will discover and love.

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