22 March 2010

The facilitator needs more tissue.

Michelle: Miss? I really think I messed up my rough draft so I threw it away.

Me (horrified): What??!

Michelle: Oh, it's okay. Look. I did it over. And it's even longer.

Me: Oh. Phew. Okay then. I hate when you crumple things up (starting to walk away).

Michelle: No. Wait! I have a question!

Me: Okay. What's up?

Michelle: So I don't know how to organize this at all, and I think this project is just not gonna work. I have all these statistics about pregnancy and I just don't know where they go.

Me: We'll find a home for the statistics. Don't worry. It'll be fine.

(A voice from another part of the room)

Katrina: Miss Huth?

Me (to Michelle): Hang on a sec. I'll be right back to help you, okay?

Katrina: Miss? This is ugly.

Me: What? Your rough draft? It's supposed to be ugly.

Katrina: But it's REALLY ugly . . .

Me: It'll be fine. Don't worry. Just don't throw any of it away, okay?

Katrina (heavy sigh): Okay.

(Michelle is now engrossed in conversation with Samantha. I prepare to say something about how she should use her time wisely even if I can't help her right away but as I get closer . . . )

Samantha: . . . so I think if you start off by explaining that teen pregnancy is a significant problem, that will be a good place to use some of those statistics. And that will . . .

Michelle: . . . help my reader understand how important my point is! And it will make them interested in what I have to say!

Samantha: Right. And then, I think you should move your page three to page two.

Michelle (nodding vigorously): Yeah! I see. That makes sense. So then I'll save the solutions part for . . .

Samantha (looking up from Michelle's rough draft): What?

Me: Um, I dunno.

Michelle: Oh, come on, Miss. You know you want to say something.

(Samantha nods in agreement.)

Me (starting to sniffle and dab at pretend tears): Here I thought you were texting and you're actually working . . . It's just that it's so beautiful to see you two working together to solve a writing problem. Samantha, you just helped Michelle so much (choking up) and it's just . . . the way that . . . (sniffle dab) I'm sorry . . . English class is supposed to be . . . I mean . . . I've been waiting my whole career for this experience . . . I'm sorry but it's just so wonderful (dab dab dab sniff sniff).

Michelle (with a heavy sigh and an eye roll): Oh, Miss. Wow. Okay. You probably have someone else who needs help, right?

Me: Oh, I don't think anyone needs my help today. I think I'll just sit here and facilitate.

17 March 2010

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

First thing in the morning, before school begins. Even though my door is open, I hear a knock and look up, realizing I don't know this student.

Me: Hey! What's up?

Student (extending hand and striding purposefully into the room): Hi, Miss Huth. I'm a new student in your class. My name is Grace.

Me (tentatively returning handshake): Um, hi! Well, it's very nice to meet you, Grace.

Grace: Here's my schedule. I think I'm in your next class. Mod 3, right?

Me: Yes, mod 3 is first today.

Grace: What are you working on right now? I want to be able to catch up.

Me: Oh, we're in the middle of a research project.

Grace: Oh, I love doing research! It's so much fun, and I always learn so much!

Me: What?! Oh. Good. (Then, scanning schedule, slowly) Oh, Grace, um, I'm sorry but you're not my student . . .

Grace: Oh! I'm so sorry!

Me (sighing): Oh, it's no problem. The schedule is hard to figure out (sigh) Your class is next door (sigh). I'll take you there (sigh).

Grace: Oh, thanks so much! I appreciate all your help!

Me: You're very welcome. It was a pleasure to meet you, believe me (sigh).

06 March 2010

When maneuvering through the snow is the least of it.

This is a recent letter of recommendation for a former student. Some things are easy to do.

I’m pleased to write this letter of recommendation for Katherine. I’ve known her since she was a junior in my English 11 class. When she was a senior, I was happy to find her in my creative writing elective, and since she graduated, she has kept in touch with me quite regularly. She is a wonderful young lady, and I highly recommend her.

When I think of Katherine, I picture her wonderful smile. She has the uncanny ability to remain perennially optimistic in the face of anything: a tough research project, maneuvering her wheelchair through snow, or dealing with blindness and indeterminate diagnoses. Despite many painful medical tests, procedures and sick days in the last several years, she faces each obstacle with her quiet strength and shy smile. She seems unconcerned about herself; rather, she worries more about the fears and concerns of those who care about her.

One of the most difficult memories I have is when she was a senior in high school; after yet another doctor’s appointment, she came to tell me about her decreasing vision. As an English teacher, I see too few students who love to read. Katherine is an exception, a voracious reader. As she was telling me that the doctors had determined that she would probably continue losing her vision, I felt overwhelmed that this young woman might no longer be able to enjoy her books. I also imagined the obstacles this would pose for her academic life in college. Nevertheless, Katherine, far more mature than she has any right to be, quickly turned the conversation to the hopeful—that an operation or technology might help, and that, ultimately, it would be okay. We were soon laughing about the possibilities of wheelchairs with GPS and autopilot capabilities and, finally, I had to agree with her that it would be okay.

And in the two years after her graduation from high school, it really has been “okay.” Despite adapting to blindness and changing diagnoses and the normal stresses of being a successful college student, Katherine has indeed proved to be exceptionally strong, optimistic, and determined. Adapting to college life is daunting enough for many young people, but she has done that all while adapting to blindness as well. She is not merely surviving, but thriving in college, and the proof is in her academic success and many activities, including spearheading fundraisers and completing internships. She has many gifts--strength, optimism, empathy and intelligence—and she uses these gifts to enrich every life she touches.

05 March 2010

And when the research is over, we sing.

At the end of two weeks in the library researching college and career possibilities, they invent a song and sing it to me. Luckily, they weren't researching careers in music.