Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Class of 2003

I always felt partial to the Class of 2003.

They were my very first freshman at Oak Hills when I was a first year teacher.  We were all freshmen, together.  When they graduated, I felt like part of me had made it, too.

This morning, I got an email with the subject line:  "Student, Class of 2003" and I knew it would be bad.  I hoped it wouldn't be too bad, but I've seen enough of these emails to know it's never good news.

I saw who it was, and my heart sank.

There are a few students I've met in the past 13 years that I can say I know, without a doubt, will change the world.  I've been lucky to have a few.  Ones that I knew would go so far.  They had so much talent, and confidence, and dreams up in the sky and I just knew they would make it.

Dulcy was one of those.

I immediately teared up and had to pull it together for the last 10 minutes of class.  A student asked if I was okay, and I said, "No...not really."  And I told them, because I figured they might as well know why I was shaking.

You never quite get used to going to funerals for students.  They sit in my room, every day, for 54 minutes.  We laugh, we get frustrated, we figure stuff out, we think some more.  Sometimes they drive me nuts.  Sometimes I drive them nuts.  And then another June comes, and another round of scantrons and a picture I take in the back of my room and then the door shuts and it's over.  They walk out the door, and they move on.  And I wish them well.  I always wish them well.

I decided I'd better do something productive during my planning period, which was the next one.  We're in the middle of renovations and we have to pack up our rooms.  That's it!  I'll mindlessly put books in a box!  I can do that!  I can totally do that!

Except I had no packing tape.  I had to get packing tape from the office, and I was all red and puffy and snotty.

So I pulled it together and headed to the office.  I asked for the tape from the secretary in the main office...the one who sent the email about Dulcy.  She looked at me and I knew she knew I was upset.  And I asked for the tape and then I started to feel the sting in my eyes, so I said, "I'm sorry...it's just the email....I...I'm pretty sad."

And I thought I'd be okay.

But she looked at me and said, "Yes, when her cousin came in to tell us the news and arrangements, she wanted us to tell the teachers, and she said she knew Miss Arcaro was her favorite teacher, and...."

And that was it.  That was the moment I sobbed in the main office.

I grabbed the tape and apologized and ran off to get it out.  And then pull myself together, because another round of kids were coming into my room when that bell rang...a life I lead by bells, by hundreds of kids coming in and out of my life, each one having an impact and each one teaching me something.

I will always remember Dulcy and her smile and her voice and her desire to change the world, and how she was well on her way to doing just that.  

3 comments:

Jumper 2.0 said...

I'm an RN who helps treat people for strokes, brain aneurysms, and much more.
You'd be amazed at how young and otherwise vibrant some of these people are.
I've seen a lot of people die and I hate to say it, but, I think I'm pretty use to it. And when I say that, I don't mean cold or indifferent, just accepting. I guess.

But every once in a while a special case hits me. Whether it's a mother of a newborn or an 80 year old that you see a family and friends that loves that person so much that it just overwhelms you.
It's amazing really.

But I don't know if any of my experiences could be anywhere as touching or special as yours?

But, I do know how I deal with it. I may only be a part of this person's life (and/or the family) for only a few hours or only a few days, but I did get to witness, and be a part of that person's life, for that amount of time. I've learned to be grateful for that time, no matter how long or short it was. I've learned to feel pretty lucky to have that small window into that person's life.

I am certainly not suggesting any solutions on how for you to deal with this. I am a guy, but I'm not THAT bad! ;-). But, as with my experiences, I can say that I am glad that you got to know this girl and be such an important part of her life. Yes, it's too short of a life and only an hour a day for a year for you...

But,
that time makes you pretty damn lucky.

My condolences to you Sara!

Carolina John said...

Wow, that is a tough loss. so sorry sara.

Rachel said...

Hi Sara. I'm so sorry for your loss. I can relate. While I'm not a "real" teacher (yet), I am going to be student teaching next year down in the Columbus area (I'm from Fairview Park). This spring I was teaching (for my Methods course) at Nothland High School--part of Columbus City Schools. Needless to say this was a major culture shock to me.

As part of our Methods course, we get assigned a School (Northland), a co-operating teacher, and we chose one of their classes to teach for weeks (we had to get at least 100 field hours). I chose 4th period, a senior level pre-calculus class. Within our class we get a "partner student" who we interview sporadically and keep a special eye on their progress/assessment achievement, etc. My student was Vitien--a bright, happy young man who has immigrated from Jama, played soccer, was going to OSU in the fall, and was going to be the first in his family to graduate high school.

On April 20, Vitien was shot and killed in a parking lot--two weeks before his 18th birthday. He was followed after work and was robbed for the cash (less than $200) that he had. I got the phone call on my way to school early Monday morning and had no idea how to react or what to do with my class/students when I got to school in 10 minutes.

I'm from Fairview. Murder was NEVER on my radar. My mom has been teaching in Bay for 33 years and has never once lost a current student. However, for my kids at Northland, this is part of their "normal." That doesn't make it easier for them, but they've experienced it before. This year, NHS has lost 3 students (2 to murder and 1 to suicide). The class of 2012 (Vitien's class) has lost 6 students while they've been in high school. These are kids! This should not be their reality.

How do I, a 21 year old student teacher, be strong for a class of 22 kids, when I've never had to be that strong for myself before? It was one of the hardest days of my life. They don't prepare you for something like this in college. How we grew up did not prepare us for this.

I wish you all the strength in the world today, Sara. This sucks, I know. It seems unfair and stupid and confusing, and it may never make sense. All we can hope for is time and love to heal us, and heal the family of those that we have lost.

Rachel

(I wrote a little about this here: http://runningproof.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/tragedy-puts-life-in-perspective-15/ )