As usual, one of my honors students has decided to try to evade work by commenting on how he has already written a personal essay for another class, and can’t he just use that one?
I don’t even try to hide my snarky rebuttal: “And I’ve written 2,200 blog posts, but I spent two hours searching for one and one hour revising it yesterday so that I could give you yet another exemplar.”
But he’ll do what he wants, as they all do. He’ll pretend to write tomorrow in class while the others snicker around him, falling out of chairs and posting immature comments on the class discussion thread, eating their lunch two hours too late, leaving torn bits of fast food wrappers littered on the floor as if there were no trash cans in the school.
It doesn’t matter that I have also spent hours planning and replanning each moment of these lessons, that I have begged and borrowed ideas from a colleague, that I have uploaded links and found beauty in words that some of them will never take the time to read aloud, to fit into their mouths and taste their glory. It doesn’t matter that I have a wealth of class activities that ask them to collaborate and ask them to be introspective and ask them to move around the room, and that I have thought about them in the predawn sleepless hours of my weekday mornings. It doesn’t matter that, unlike every teacher portrayal in movies and books, this isn’t the only lesson I planned today, that I also rushed to the copier this morning with a quick revision of my other class’s lesson because yesterday’s trial was such an utter failure that I wanted today’s students to have a better shot at comprehension.
They will do what they want. They will put little or no effort into a story about their lives and wonder why I put so much effort into the words describing mine. “2,200 posts?” another boy chimes in, calculator-phone in hand, “that’s like you’ve been writing every day for the past eight years straight.”
“That’s exactly what I have done.” And his eyes widen even more as he slips the phone back into his pocket.
“What could you possibly think of to write?”
How could I summarize it for him (how could I admit how many of them have been haikus?)? How could he possibly understand a passion so extreme that guilt rides my insomnia if I take even a day, let alone a week, a month, without writing?
How could I not write, when the world is filled with so many ideas, so much beauty and frustration and kids who drive me nuts and make me love them within the same seconds of the same inglorious day?
Like the Moroccan student who, after our ten-minute free-write, wouldn’t stop, who begs me to read through her words describing her journey into a country that threw hate talk and cuss words at her name (which means generosity), at her religion (which means peace), at the center of her beautiful soul.
Like the A students who put a stop, online, to the Nickelodeon banter on the class discussion.
Like the student (straight from Ethiopia) who has only been a presence in my room for a few months and stops by after school to tell me today, broken English and all, that his family has to move to Utah, and he wants to thank me for the “great much of knowledge” that I have given him.
Like the quiet persistence of the introverts whose words they share with me on shallow screens, turning their light just so, exposing their torn experiences with adolescence, with depression, with whatever shadows have followed them into this too-well-lit, too-hot classroom today.
Later, I think of what I should have said to the boy so caught up on my hours of writing: There is always a reason to write. There is always something you could think of to put into words. There is always a moment worth capturing, however painful, however disappointing, however uplifting, that I try to fit into seventeen syllables, an image, an essay.
There is no glory in these inglorious moments of our day-to-day lives.
But there is glory in words.
And that is what I am searching for. Every. Damn. Day.