Wednesday, March 9, 2011

gutsy 15

                                                              few minutes to clanging bell
typical boys clustered in back corner
emitting immature boy sounds

girls-- resigned to climbing the grade level ladder
with this particular annoying boy bunch--
sat quietly
for the few moments in the hallway
with friends and boy friends

i moved between the rows
softly talking to the girls
i looked at her
shoulders hunched
radiated from her

her face wore a weird expression
i walked over to her
asked  about her weekend
was she out in the rain caring for her cows?

i teased her about her disdain for coats--she only wears hoodies
even at below freezing temps

she smiled briefly
at my gentle teasing

then a flicker of a spark ignited her eyes
her mouth opened
the dam opened ---trickling at first

"my grandma's in bad shape
she was up in columbus in the hospital
all alone
i talked to her, telling her i would get there if i could drive"

she tearfully told me , "i know honey."

then the dam burst
anger poured from her

"grandma's home now
my uncle lives with her
he won't help her
he smokes constantly
he and his pregnant wife
want her house."

"sunday i took his cigarette, crushed it, and tossed it out
he started yelling at me
i punched him hard in the face
bloodied his nose

he started to talk trash 
and i ripped into him
about how he was killing his own mom
meanwhile my fist was tight ready to level him again
he shut up"

i listened
thinking --this is one gutsy teen

she's 15
he's in his 20's

she's a young girl hoping to keep her grandma around for awhile

he's a selfish, irresponsible 'adult'
who won't permit his mother to use her oxygen
just so he can smoke

15 and she punched him
bloodied him

did it happen?
with some students
i would figure exaggeration
but her i believe

i did talk to her about elderly abuse
asked about her dad's role in all this

sounded to me
like a typical family mired in the 'mud' of poverty farming
working long hours away from the land
in hopes of keeping the land 

too busy staying alive
to stop and add mom to the list
of responsibilities

plus, i don't know the underlying currents
that she either doesn't know or doesn't want to say

maybe her dad and her grandma 'have issues' with each other
maybe grandma has dug in her heels
about her 'baby boy'
living with her

appalachia doesn't usually throw family out
family is all some of them have
good or bad
they stand loyal

i am going to talk to the counselor
and check into a number to give her
to pass on to her dad
who may toss it

i will keep tabs
and try to do whatever the law will allow me to do

bottom line though
i'm proud of this feisty teen-age girl
with the weight of a 30-year-old
compressing her shoulders

part of imperfect prose on thursdays

read on

disclaimer: i'm not the perfect, caring teacher
there are some students who grate on my nerves
and i have to pray hard
to just be cordial

i can yell
and i have a tone that would freeze a summer day
i work on my compassion and my reactions to certain kids
and i pray that for every student i help
there's not one i crush


  1. You may not be a perfect teacher - none of us are perfect - but your heart is in the right place.
    I can see the caring inside which is probably why you became a teacher in the first place. I'm glad you are there!

  2. and you, indeed, may never know the ripple that this pebble of kindness will cause. thank-you for caring for her, for touching her, for listening to her.
    your images are beautiful.

  3. i am glad she felt comfortable enough to share with you ...she is gutsy but obviously knows as well when to be weak and allow others to share the burden...i admire her more for that.

  4. Such a sad story, Beth. So glad she had someone to listen to her at that moment...

    I know you felt you needed to leave a disclaimer, but all of us could say the same. We are imperfect. Loving here, failing to love there. That's why we need Jesus.

  5. My heart goes out to this poor girl having to bear such a heavy load at such an early age. You should take it as a compliment that she would open up to you. A listening ear and a compassionate heart like yours can make a huge difference in a teenager's life. God bless all your efforts!

  6. oh, this breaks me, the weight that these teens have to bear... i'm so glad you were there to listen, friend.

  7. so glad you could be there for her. I work with teens and sometimes all they need is the realization that someone just cares.

  8. sounds like she really loves her grandma

  9. what a difficult situation for all ...

    {it's in the mail!}

  10. My first thought is that I am glad you took the time to see her, to notice that something was wrong rather just assuming "attitude." And you listened, offering help, on her side, not judging her, honoring her heart. She's gutsy and caring...and so are you, disclaimer or no. We all have disclaimers. We all get it wrong. And sometimes, with Help, we make a difference, bring a piece of the Kingdom down.

  11. i enjoy how you open up your classroom to us, allowing us to see the very real struggles both you and your students walk through. i will be praying for this bold young lady and her family.

  12. HI Beth, What a great post... When I taught school (umpteen years ago), I would sometimes have students who would pour out their hearts to me... I would feel so sorry for them. We sometimes don't know what kids are having to go home to every day from school... It is sad... Glad you are there for your students...


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