I started reading a draft from one of my students, and two lines into it I gasped. This was about me. I was the one who had caused this girl enough negative emotion to write the best thing she had written all year, something deep and heartfelt instead of the surface-y creations she had dashed off in order to satisfy my requirements.
Her work caused emotion in me, too. It hurt me enough that I had to put aside my grading for the evening. It made me cry. It was intended to sting, and it did.
But. As I thought about this more, I realized that I have taught my students that one way they can respond to pain, whether caused by an earthquake or a friend or - yes - an unfair teacher, is to write about it. And I realized that I have created a classroom environment where she feels safe writing about how angry she is with me. What kind of hypocrite would I be if I threw a fit and forbade her to write about the first thing that has moved her to good writing this year?
We did talk about her work. We talked about it as writing and I shared my interpretation of what had happened, which differed from hers. And then I did what I had taught her to do. I wrote about it.
It has come to my attention
that I am the villain in your story.
I knew I wasn't the heroine,
Because I never saved you from a burning building
Or carried you across a river
Or rescued your kitten.
I do not even own a black cape.
I have no secret lair and no scary weapons.
What I am is your teacher
And you are a middle schooler.
And I guess those facts alone are enough for a villain's role.
You say I am lying in wait
Hoping you will mess up,
Taking pleasure in your failures.
You say I am accusing you
Of things you do not do.
You say I ruin your day.
I take your beautiful name
And write it upon my bad list,
The list of those who are In Trouble.
The injustices I visit upon you are legion.
For now, I am the villain in your story.
Surely no miscreant worth her salt would let that hurt her feelings
So I try to harden my heart.
I hope, dear student, that I am the worst villain you ever encounter
And that the ruination of your day caused by me
Is the low point of your life.
I hope that the stories you have to tell of me and my evil
Will be, by far
The most traumatic
Recounted at your class reunions.
Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.
(By the way, this week I was introduced to a new collection here. I wrote and asked Steven Withrow to send me the pdf of his book, Crackles of Speech. I'm very much enjoying it and I recommend you do the same!)
4 hours ago