If you walked around between classes, you’d see the usual crowds rushing to class. If you listened in on a teacher, you’d hear math lessons or science lessons or literature being discussed. Same as it ever was. If you eavesdropped on teachers in the staff room, they’d be complaining about broken copiers and being overwhelmed and the terrible air conditioning system. Same as it ever was. If you watched the students closely, you’d see notes being taken and soccer games being played and trash being talked on twitter. Same, same, same.
But if you listened at just the right moments, and looked very carefully, you might see something different.
My seniors are writing college essays. One student cried telling me about the five weeks she spent in Iran, and how she felt like she was home for the first time in her life. Another student cried telling me about how she has never felt supported by her dad and her first memory is of him laughing at her when she fell. A third student wrote about the recent deaths, and cried. I’m reading and hearing about crippling fear of failure, depression, anger, and a tremendous feeling of lack of control. College essays offer the opportunity to examine the forces that shape us. My students feel shaped by tragedy and loss.
In my seniors’ analysis of the first five poems in the anthology I assigned, they read a poem about war and saw isolation, loneliness and pain. In a poem about the bombing of a church, they saw parents trying to protect their children and failing. In a poem about ravens, they saw selfishness, deceit and emptiness. No matter what the poem was about, the seniors saw fear. Poetry offers a window to explore one’s mind. My students’ minds are full of dark, dark thoughts.
As for me, I feel dark too. At back to school night, I started to indulge in my annual fantasy. I liked to imagine Dr. Doran talking to a parent and asking them how they liked the teachers. The parent tells Dr. Doran how impressed they were with me. I know it’s a silly daydream, but I always wanted Dr. Doran to be proud of me. As I realized Dr. Doran is no longer here to impress, my mind floundered for a replacement. And it took my breath away: there simply is no replacement for Michael Doran.
Wootton looks pretty much the same as always on the outside, but underneath, we are hurting. We all know it will get better. We keep telling each other and ourselves that it will get better. But right now, it just feels really, really hard.