Fragile, broken, beautiful

I love my students.  

(students from class 6 after winning their basketball game)
And sometimes, I’m reminded of how very fragile they are.  It’s easy for me to forget, because they’re so young and full of energy (generally, although they’re also pretty good at sleeping on their desks) and life and craziness and joking and they bring so much mayhem and chaos (of my favorite kind) into my life.

But in this past week’s lesson we talked about consequences, so I asked them to write about three events in their lives that have impacted them deeply, for good or for ill.

Today, in the flood of sheets of paper being dropped on my podium, James jabbed his finger at the second line he had written.  “This one,” he said, making sure that I saw it.  We had no time to talk then, but once I had gotten home I read through their answers more carefully and remembered that he had pointed his out to me: an allergic reaction to penicillin as a kid.  So I sent him a message on WeChat about it and we spent a little while exchanging messages, him sharing about how scary it was to have a severe allergic reaction to penicillin.  And I feel tears welling up in my eyes, just thinking about how much I enjoy having him as a student and how easily he could have died.  Multiply that times my 210-ish students this semester and my heart overflows and I want to hug each one of them, want to look them in the eyes and tell them that they are precious.

James isn’t the only one who’s written about hard things.  Students have written about deaths in the family, sicknesses, a grandfather who died in the 2008 earthquake, a father who got remarried to a stepmother they don’t get along with, serious fights with friends.  As I read their answers, I’m reminded that each one of them is a human — beautiful and complex and bearing scars from the brokenness of the world.  They’ve also written about triumphs, good relationships, families and friends that love them well, timely words spoken by teachers and relatives.  And I’m reminded of how amazing it is that I get to know these students, right on the verge of being adults, what a gracious gift it is that I get to be their teacher for this semester (and hopefully next!), to know their names and help them learn to courageously use the skills that they have, to challenge them in discussion and to share life together.  

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