Let It Be Me (part 2)

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Two Writing Teachers
"Really, those people don't matter.  Just ignore them. I know it's hard, but really, they don't matter."  Those words propelled me out my classroom door and I saw her. Swollen red eyes, sniffling nose, dejected look on her face. My girl, my project for the year. 

A former student accompanied her--another one of the lost souls who roam the hallways of high schools. Now the mother of two children, she speaks to my girl from experience.

"High school stinks. But get through it. It won't matter when you are out. I promise.  I talk to those same people now and it's all different."

"I just want to go home," she sniffles.

"Walk with me," I answer.

I put my arm around her and the three of us walk up the hall.

" You matter to me," I tell her. "I want you to be in my class this afternoon. Somewhere, deep inside you, you have to find the courage to ignore them and take care of yourself. I know it's hard. I know you don't want to. Talk to your teachers. Tell them what is going on. Ask them to move you in front of their desk. Stand up for yourself. Don't let them win."

I talked and talked and talked. I hugged. I pleaded. I left her sitting in the counselor's office with her friend. I hoped she would be in class today.

She was. And before she left for the day, she turned to me and said

"Thank-you for talking to me this morning."

I patted her on the shoulder and answered, "Thank-you for making it to class. I'm proud of you."

Sometimes we don't know if what we've said ever sinks in, but every once in awhile, you have a moment like this and we remember why we teach in the first place--the kids.


  1. Oh-my heart goes out to her. I think it must be the hardest thing for her to stay and go to class, to even pretend to be part of all that goes on in high school. Thank you Deb for taking time to be there with her and for her. It seems that you helped her take a step and each day she will remember that you think she matters. I'm proud of you!

  2. When I taught middle school, it was a heartbreaking time. Much soap-opera stuff, but real to them. If the adults aren't there to scaffold them, they sink to below the floorboards, never to be seen again. With the scaffolding they can grow stronger and make it. How many can you get to? Not everyone. But that isn't a reason not to try. Like the starfish story, it matters to this one. Thank you for making a difference.

  3. "I want you to be in my class this afternoon."
    That statement brought your student back to you. Thank you for reaching out to her, inviting her back in when she felt as though no one was there for her. What a wonderful thing you did.

  4. Keep loving kids. Keep telling them they are important. Oh, and do some teaching too, but your actions will teach them more about being a person than the content will. You are helping to grow people.

  5. We all want to make a difference in someone's life, you are making a difference in her life. I also think it was you saying, "I want you to be in my class this afternoon." You have expectations and she is trying to meet them. Way to be there for her Deb!

  6. You reached her where and when it counted...she is lucky. Kids just know when adults really care about them. She's lucky to be your "project".

  7. These are the moments. My heart is breaking for her. Thank you for being there. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for sharing the words. She knows you care.

    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Thanks all--I worry about her a lot. Unfortunately, today she didn't make it through the day. I just do what I can

  9. This is what real teachers do. Oh, there is so much to learn besides test-taking abilities. Thanks for being that kind of teacher!

  10. Deb,
    My eyes are filled with tears. I'm thankful she has you. I'm glad to get to "rub shoulders" in cyberspace with a teacher like you. Godspeed, my friend, today & every day.
    Keep caring,

  11. WOW, she is (and all your students are) so lucky to have you. What a beautiful thing to say to her -- that you WANT her in your class, that she matters to YOU. Keep at it and you will make a difference in her life; in fact, I'm sure you already did, whether it shows or not!

  12. Somehow, I missed out on your original post and just now went back to catch up. The line "let it be me" has so much strength; I am overcome with emotion. Most of all, I want to say thank you for being you in this world. However, I am also in awe of how you are able to write so personally, so powerfully about a relationship like this with a student without getting bogged down in details. I tried three different slices yesterday about students that I just couldn't get to come out right. I am going to reread your posts and have another go at it! What an inspiration you are. You matter. You made her matter. How this can be such a gut-wrenching piece at the same time as it fills me up with all the goodness in the world is beyond me. Thank you for your words (those spoken to your girl and those written to capture her moments).


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