Monday, April 8, 2013
It took a long time.
Some days I couldn't even go to class. My heart was so dead and as shy as I already am, standing in front of them and trying to think of something to say for three or four hours straight was far too daunting. I can't thank the Lord enough for Sandy and her patience and encouragement for me. When it came time for my first evaluation from the college education board, I shook and couldn't even get a lesson plan put together. Why did it matter, anyways? Each day I left my class and the my real world slammed against me, battering me down, until the school was so far from my mind and so far down my priorities list that I feared I would fail student teaching from lack of heart. When I got home from work and had a precious half hour slot to work on lesson plans and grading, I would just crawl exhausted into bed and wish the world would disappear in the oblivion of sleep.
"I'm praying for you," Sandy said. I'd never told her about what happened. About what I was going through each day, and why I was barely hanging on, and why more often than not I'd start crying for no reason and have to leave the class. She never asked. She just said, "When that evaluator comes today to observe your teaching, I am praying that he sees what I've been seeing all semester: that you are right where you are supposed to be, and where you are standing in this class is right where God's will is for you to be."
She was right.
As the kids became more than just faces and grades, and the class slowly became my class and not Sandy's, I watched God place them one by one in my heart. Not all of them, and not all at once. It was Montrell who started it, and I think I knew it from the beginning. I remember the first time I saw him. When he came slinking into 15 minutes late in an oversized hoodie, clutching his books and hiding behind huge coke-bottle glasses, skinny as a rabbit and as bashful as a baby deer, I looked at him and he looked back at me and we smiled awkwardly at each other.
It wasn't until weeks later that I learned Montrell's story. He was by far one of my best writers. Although I teach English grammar Tuesdays and Thursdays, both me and the kids grit through it and live for Monday and Wednesday, when I teach journalism and either creative writing or poetry. I learned than 99% of American junior high kids in a Christian school love life and think they are God's gift to Oklahoma. Sometimes it annoys the fire out of me, but sometimes it amuses me. I can't remember ever being that stuck on myself or optimistic that I'd rule the country in the future. Me and the kids clashed a lot. My experience was the world outside the United States continually shocked them and challenged their ideals. But I read Montrell's projects and my jaw wanted to drop. Not only was he fervently talented.... he was so deep in his writing. Dark, sad, and very rich with emotion and lexicon. He saw his world so different than his peers, and it captured me.
Then his mother called, and I learned his story. He was adopted. And he loved to write. He wrote because he needed to escape his past. A fourteen year old with a past? It was a new concept to me, because although my late teen years were riddled with tragedy and pain, my childhood was happy and secure.
But when I understood his past, it changed me.
I felt a huge staggering shock rip into my heart. I looked at Montreal the next day in class and it was so hard not to let the tears fall. I'd never met so brave a kid.
I was teaching acrostic poems, and Montrell didn't finish his. He went home, and his mother called because he was struggling and she wanted me to know. I don't know how he did it, but he came to school the next day and his smile was so.... glowing. He had been writing dark, sad poems for so long. He handed me his poem and as I read it, I did cry. I asked him for a copy and I keep it in my Bible, and I read it every night and when I pray for my life, I also pray for Montrell's.
It is so rare for me to feel inspired. But Montreal inspired me, and my life was changed.
My chains are gone, I've been set free.
Only God knows the real me.
No weapons formed against me shall prosper.
Trusting in God, and not the monster.
Remembering, my life has meaning.
Empty inside, but still believing.
Lies, won't be my fall.
Love, conquers all.