This morning, I awoke to the beauty of snow. SNOW!!! Nothing quite like opening up the front door to the vision of inches upon inches of snow which, tragically, caused the county to close down schools! Woot! Time for coffee, TV, and nothing exciting. I can handle that!
So, I turned on WordPress and read some comments from a former student now lovely friend and amazing editor, Hayley D. God I love that woman. She edited my novel, my National Board portfolios (and helped me achieve in the first year which was not common at the time). She inspired me to write, was with me during my first public reading at a poetry jam, was an original member of Writers’ Guild. She honored me by asking me to do a reading at her wedding (thereby introducing me to the poet Rumi). She’s put books in my hands, held my hands during some terrible times, and forced my hands to once more touch a keyboard and write and write and write some more.
And there was Hayley’s voice on this blog this morning, reassuring me about my decisions regarding the Boy and his science fair project. Now, at the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious and egotistical, I wasn’t looking for reassurance. But I am not about to turn down the welcome voice of a person I love and value. So, yeah. Reading her words was wonderful.
So while I’m riding my happy-coffee-no-school-high, I turned to Facebook to see if everyone had started posting about being out of school. And I noticed that I had a private message from yet another former student, also named Haley (last name S) who wrote me the most lovely message about how much she appreciated my teaching and my blog.
Haley S was a student I taught last year. I loved how she went from being a rather quiet student who seemed to lack confidence to being a wonderful intellectual constantly communicating her insights in a classroom filled with students who wouldn’t talk. Listening to her ideas, I saw that maybe, just maybe, I was doing something right. If not, regardless, she is a friggin’ smart woman!!
Writing has become so incredibly important to me. It was always important to me in the past, but for a long time, I thought I had no future with it. Let’s face it. I teach the greatest writers on a daily basis. And my writing is not nearly as wonderful as the greatest writers in history. But Hayley D. showed me that I have the ability to, at least, write and that what I had to write was of merit. She edited my words with honesty and integrity and gave me the lovely flush of joy when she would highlight sentences and then, later, pages and tell me I had written something well….or…beautifully. Her writing is incredible. Having a great writer compliment me on my writing…amazing feeling.
So, when Haley S reached out to me and told me how she enjoyed reading my blog, how she could hear my voice in my writing…wow. This was just as good if not better than listening to a phone call from county officials telling me that I didn’t have to go to school today (but before the local media starts hissy-fitting about me not being at school and robbing taxpayers of their hard-earned money…I graded papers today).
Something I have observed is that we live in a world that is hell-bent on destruction and rather loathe to construction. We enjoy tearing one another down, sometimes in jest more often with seriousness, and are never as fast to rebuild whomever we have obliterated. As a teacher, I have to be so very careful because I love to joke around with my students and it is too easy to move from teasing to, frankly, bullying. And I never mean for it to go to this point. But I don’t always remember the lines as well as I should.
I love to build up my students, though. I love nominating them for awards. I love writing letters of recommendation. I love showing them a reverse mirror that enables them to see that they are wonderful and not horrible. I used to work with a teacher who, daily, caused students to cry. I really wanted to shove myself into that person’s classroom and tear him/her down. One former colleague told a young woman that her mother raised her wrong because the girl didn’t dress stylishly enough. This was a young woman who was one of my babysitters so I could go to a prayer group. This young woman was active in a special Christian retreat for adolescents. This young woman is an amazing person and I am honored to have worked with her for two years. By the way, this teacher also made Lauren’s life hell (see the post about Wren). Don’t make my daughter’s first word unhappy. That ain’t gonna work.
Life is precarious and fragile and slow to repair. Robert Fulghum, in one of his books, wrote that “Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will break our hearts.” He is so right. He is so friggin’ right. And so I do my best to dedicate my life and my teaching to construction, to showing people how they are valuable and loved. I worry, sometimes, that my pursuit of compassion and goodness makes me appear stupid, weak, and naive. And, at times, I have been accused of being naive because I try to see the best in people.
I’ll be naive. I’m still jaded and really good at hanging up on people who call me to try and take my money in the name of philanthropy. I’ll donate to the coffee can pan-handlers on the corners by the stoplights or to the Boy/Girl Scouts peddling their wares.
Okay..I’m about to go off topic. Back to the topic. Telling others when they are good or lovely or have done something well.
So, yeah. I like to tell my students that I love them and that they have done wonderful things. I love to see their faces flush with a surge of joy when they realize they have been recognized for the goodness inherent within them.
And I am narcissistic enough to enjoy it when someone takes the time and pulls out his/her vulnerability to tell me that I have done something well. Because people are very quick to chastise, castigate, degrade, deride, insult, and tear down. Trust me. I hear it all the time, even if it’s not necessarily directed at me.
So, today, I got to read two stories written by two different Hayleys/Haleys who took the time to extend compassion and love. For this, I am incredibly grateful. And I will do my best to take the love they have passed on to me and extend it to someone else.
So if I ever randomly stop you in a hallway and tell you that you look lovely, don’t worry. I have no hidden agenda other than to give you a moment of joy and the knowledge that someone has seen you and wants to make you happy.
Love you. Mean it.
Oh, and if I spelled your name wrong….I AM SO SORRY!