The Bitter and the Sweet

I teach at an blended learning alternative high school. It’s the kind of job that, at times, will break your heart and, at times, will make your heart sing. Sometimes in the same day. Today was one of those days.

I had the family of a student I had in my class all this past school year call me to tell me that my student had passed. She was the victim of a shooting, and didn’t even make it to the hospital. Mom knew I was her teacher and wanted to make sure I knew. I immediately called my supervisor because I know we’ll support the family any way we can.

I’m just so sick of the gun violence in this country. It’s even harder when it directly touches you like this has touched me.

Today, I also had a student pass my English class! She hasn’t had stable housing, and I did all I could to keep her focused. I texted daily. Then with only 3 days left, I left a voice mail that started, “I’m not giving up on you! And you better not be giving up on you either!” A couple hours later, we texted, and I told her what she needed to do to pass. For the first time she responded. “Okay. I can do this.”

I kept calling and texting for the next 3 days. Then today, she did it. She passed my class. It was the last class she needed to graduate! I left her another voice mail congratulating her and telling her how proud I am of her. She texted back a while later, “I’m sorry I was so difficult. Thank you for not giving up on me.”

Yeah, words matter. What we say makes a difference.

While at times, I am plunged into the bitterness of loss, at other times, I am uplifted by sweetness of success. Even with the day-to-day roller coaster ride, my students inspire me every day, and that’s what makes it worthwhile.

One thought on “The Bitter and the Sweet

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  1. It is hard to go from one emotion to the other. You must have meant something to the student who died and her family if they wanted to make sure that you knew. For the student you never gave up on, it is a reminder that we need to keep supporting and helping each. Sometimes our belief in another is enough to make them believe in themselves. It reminds me of something Bernard of Clairvaux said in a totally unrelated context: If you cannot believe then believe in my belief and it will be sufficient. She doubted she could pass. You said you knew she could – she chose to believe you despite her doubt and your belief in her became hers in herself. Well done to her, and to you for not giving up. But then, I know you don’t give up on your students easily.


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