Friday, October 7, 2011

We Are Not Alone

Every year I do an assignment with my students where they have to find a song that represents them, bring in the lyrics and write about why they chose it (I wrote more about this here).  Although we have a new curriculum this year, I decided to do this project still anyway because I think it is SO important.

Very rarely do kids get to open up like this, share personal parts of their life, express them in a way where they have everyone's attention and respect and let out all of these emotions they have bottled up for so long.  This assignment makes my class a family, and could be why I've never had a fight break out in my classroom in 11 years.  My first hour enjoyed this so much they wanted to do a group hug after we were done this year, it was amazing.  It's the same reason I teach yoga at school, it allows students to feel as though they are part of something, part of a community, and are loved and supported.

This year, I heard some AMAZING songs and some very sad, uplifting, motivating and strong presentations.  It is unbelievable what my students go through, and how they never tell anyone.  My advice to teachers is this - find out about your students' lives.  Don't just discount them if they come late or don't turn in assignments, ask them what's wrong and show them you care.  Open up to them, share with them a part of your life too.  Become a family because sometimes you are the only family they've got.

I started the presentations off by doing one of my own.  I presented this song and read something I wrote about our experience this past year.  It was so healing for me and so amazing to see all of my students react to my story.  I got hugs after and it felt great.  At that moment, I was healed and they helped to heal me.  I hoped to do the same for them.

I wanted to share this presentation with you.  It really impacted me and after receiving permission from the girl who wrote it, I post it here.  Her writing moved me and the way she wrote this is absolutely astonishing.  If we would have never done this, I may have never known this side of her as a writer.  I wish I could remember her song, but here are her words:

Re-read her ending sentence.  She WAS a miracle and it's a wonder she made it out of her mother alive; and her poor mother, having to experience that while pregnant with her.  Every single time the students presented something, they ended on a positive note.  Most of them can't even get through their presentations without crying (and I will finish for them), but each and every one of them put something bright or hopeful in the end.   It is amazing how much these kids WANT happiness, WANT to heal and move on, WANT to see the light.  (Reminds me of another poem we have studied by Robert Frost, "I Have Been One Acquainted with the Night.")  

I have heard some very sad things and it weighs heavy on me, I feel every day like I carry their burden for them for a little while, after listening.  Then, I let it go, for them.  I am so happy they have an outlet in which to share, a safe place.  I am happy they share with us, with me, and it is my favorite thing we do in my class every year.  After each presentation I write a personal note on each one of their papers.  I wish for them that all of their dreams and hopes come true, and that they always see the positive - even if it is just in rising every time they fall.  They deserve the very best in their lives and I hope with all my heart they get what they want.

This project also really puts things into perspective for me.  Sharing what we've all been through brings comfort, you are not alone.  WE are not alone.  After a tragedy, you feel so lonely and find it hard to reconnect with people, with your old life, and with your old self.  But after hearing stories from others, you realize that you aren't the only one.  Sadness is everywhere, we SHARE this feeling together.  Why do I ever feel lonely in my grief when thinking of my situation?  I am not alone.  Some of these kids have been through more in life at 16 then I have at 33, and I think only of myself sometimes and my life.  Share, relate, grieve together, come together.  No one is alone, everyone can relate in some way.

The quarter is over and it's Fall Break.  Time for us all to reflect on the past, look towards the future and appreciate the present.  Write down a story of your past, put in as many details as you can, describe how you felt, what happened, what you've learned, how you've grown and something positive that came from it.  Let it go.  Release it.  Take time to reflect, heal and move on.  Breathe in, breathe out.  It feels oh so good.

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