The Girl loves glitter. If the Google satellite took pictures of my house right now, I think the world would be blinded by the stars, galaxies, and nebula living on my driveway, up the porch steps, and in the gutter. A couple of weeks ago, the Girl decided that she wanted to do some artwork that involved glitter. So, she grabbed her sketchbook, a bottle of glue, and the big shakers filled with glitter. At one point, I heard a whooshing sound as the glitter poured out of the shaker and made small mountains on her sketchbook.
As opposed to dumping the excess glitter onto some paper that could then be folded and the glitter be dumped back into the shaker (you know…renew, reuse, and recycle!), the Girl dumped the excess onto the driveway. Over the course of two weeks and several rain storms, the glitter has migrated everywhere. Currently, Ugly-Cat is laying next to me and even she is glitter-fied. I have glitter in my classroom, embedded in my carpet, and all over my husband’s and my cars. Truly, Stephanie Meyer would be happy with the amount of vampire skin cells that are currently sparkling all over my house.
Almost ten years ago, I was blessed with a fabulous student, Dan, who was in my AP Lit class and was also the president of the creative writing club I sponsored, the Writers’ Guild. Poor Dan. I learned that his kryptonite was glitter. And I had glitter. Lots of glitter. Not as much glitter as the girl…but enough to make Dan shiver in his skin.
In the last month and a half since I have started blogging, I have carefully not written about the boys I have taught. People like to look at teachers and scrutinize everything about them to find the fatal flaws that will cause the teacher to lose his/her job, his/her professional reputation, and his/her personal sense of dignity. In my twenty years of teaching, I have been blessed with students who have truly made an impact on my life, students who taught me about different ways of living, students who awakened me to knowledge to which I had been blind.
But when I write, I always remember that the world can see this because I want to become a professional writer and many professional writers have social media presences. Plus, I know that I need constructive criticism and this blog is a tool towards gaining that.
However, as a teacher of writing, I also tell my students, constantly, that when they write they must take into consideration their audiences. Furthermore, when writing and considering one’s audience, once must remember that the audience can take what is written the wrong way. Finally, with writing, everything is permanent and the writer bears the responsibility for communicating what he/she does not want to be held against him/her. Okay…I hope this makes sense. Currently, Squidward is singing and the family is piling on the bed and eating dinner while I nurse a crampy stomach and the need to write.
So, I haven’t been writing about the young men I teach because I am afraid that I am going to say the wrong thing and people are going to take this the wrong way and then I will end up in a huge amount of trouble. But, I need to write the stories of the gentlemen students I have taught and who have shared their lives with me.
So, let me say this right here and now. I love my husband and my husband only. I relate to my students as a teacher would relate to her students. Some of my students have been “adopted” and are family friends. And, yes, I have a tendency to mother my students because, sometimes, they need the extra mom who will relate to them on a different level because I am not their birth-mother and only know my students for the stories they share with me or the sides of their personalities they want me to see. So when I say that I love my students, it is a motherly-teacherly love. And that’s it.
Okay….disclaimer and context over….let the writing begin.
Back to Dan.
Poor Dan. Poor, poor Dan.
Once, I wrote “Hi Dan!” on his desk with glitter glue. When he came to class and saw what was scrawled across his desk, his face turned several shades of eww-gross-yuck before he launched out of his seat and fled to the furthest corner (I think….that part I can’t remember). One would think he had a bird-eating-spider crawling across his desk as opposed to congealed glitter-glue.
Another time, I put a handful of glitter on his desk and swiped it at him. Yet another launch with some mild cursing.
It was great.
At the same time, Dan was (is) a fabulous writer. He was one of the original members of my beloved Writers’ Guild and became the first male president. He wrote villanelles about a woman named Julia even though the poetry was inspired by Cowboy Bee-Bop. His essays, both creative non-fiction and academic non-fiction, made me pause and write the word “yummy” on the top because he could string together thoughts and phrases that were lovely and thought provoking.
Dan was also the subject of an incredible experiment that I have duplicated, sort of, but with never quite the same power. I took Dan’s Julia villanelle (without his name on it), photocopied it, and gave it to his AP Lit class to analyze. Dan knew the entire time what I was doing and was a willing (albeit silent) participant. The class tore through his piece, analyzing the imagery, rhythm, structure, diction, syntax, and tone. They brought in all kinds of thematic analysis and social commentary. And, then, finally a student (Elliott I think…and Elliott will be the subject of another blog on another day) asked who had written the poem.
I looked at Dan, said his name, and grinned as the class exploded. Elliott, who sat behind Dan, started laughing, his lower jaw almost unhinged, he was so surprised. The students had never had a writer in the classroom with them as they analyzed the writing. They students had never been in the presence of a poet whose piece they were analyzing, and they loved it. Dan flushed with pride as his classmates praised him for his work, thumped him on the back, and then asked if they were wrong.
I can’t remember what Dan said at that point. It doesn’t matter. He was kind and gentle and probably said something gracious and reassuring.
Dan was humble and modest about his writing. He never read his own pieces but would hand them to me and I would read them aloud. To this day, whenever a student is too shy to read his/her work out loud and, instead, shove the paper into my hand, I flashback to my rolly-green chair in a cranberry-red trailer and Dan’s soft voice asking me to read for him.
Writers’ Guild, my own little version of The Breakfast Club without the sadistic administrator. We would come together once a week and share creative writing, our personal stories of the day, and edit and critique and share and listen and never, ever judge. The students knew that Writers’ Guild was a quiet world of layered secrets and beautiful writing. They also knew that disclaimers or statements of “this poem/short story/essay/skit sucks” would earn them a shoe. My rule was that if the writing was so bad that they had to give a disclaimer than they weren’t allowed to read it. I have thrown my shoe at one person…Bethany..and she wasn’t giving a disclaimer. It was the poem’s title.
Dan is not the first writer student that I sort of adopted. But he truly made an indelible impression on me. Currently, I have two black and white pictures of him posted in my classroom. He is standing at my podium (that was made for me by two students), either reading a poem or sharing an idea. Daily, as I peer at one of those pictures in the back of my room, I am reminded of my commitment to my students: to encourage them to follow their dreams and passions as far as they can go and then cheer with them when they reach the crossroads or their victories.
Dan went to writing college, for which I wrote him letters of recommendation and helped edit his portfolio. Last I heard from him, he was pursuing a degree in meteorology so he could be a tornado chaser.
Regardless, Dan is a glittering (tee hee…couldn’t resist it) example of why I love teaching, of why I love my life. Because, once in a while (all the time), my students show me what really matters and rarely will I find that in a textbook.