Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 28 2011


Wish I could add more background, but I’m just going to put three mini-posts in one.

Day of the Funeral

Today was our dean of students’ funeral, at 10am. To accommodate all the teachers that wanted/needed to go from our school, we put the entire student body in the gym to watch a movie during the service. The movie was Toy Story, projected onto long pieces of white banner (I call it butcher!) paper taped between two volleyball poles. Interesting, and hard to see. I expected something along those lines, and expected my students to be miserably bored, so I made a point to let them bring paper, pens, and silent reading books in case they were disinterested. This proved to be mostly effective.

After the movie, we were left with 25 minutes to kill and only two sixth grade teachers to supervise all 120 students. Ms. Reading Teacher and I were nervous about what to do with them for that much time, without chaos breaking out. I kept thinking about how our kids didn’t have any time to process or talk about our dean’s death, so we improved.

Earlier in the day, one of my students said we should make a banner for Mr. Dean, to say we love and will miss him. Ms. Reading teacher and I collected a long piece of banner paper, about 15 markers, and gave instructions. Super last minute, I told the students the next 20 minutes were for them to be very mature (buzzword), and to act like seventh graders. This was their time to sit and think and remember Mr. Dean, to remember the impact he had on their lives and Dumas, and to silently say their goodbye and thank you. Then, in groups, they came down to write messages and sign the banner, which we’ll hang in the gym for everyone to see tomorrow.

When this idea was explained, I had no idea how the kids would respond. They tend to get into an uproar when sitting in the gym for five minutes, let alone 20. They also are on the boarder when it comes to dealing with death. Some understand it, and some don’t. (Hell, do I even understand or deal with death?)

But the response was gorgeous. The students were serious and considerate. The students who had been put on the wall during the movie for bad behavior kept asking to make sure they would be allowed to sign the banner, too. I felt proud that they understood the gravity of the situation, and that they had enough respect for Mr. Dean to behave during the activity. I’m also glad we’ll have a physical reminder of his presence for the next few weeks.


Tonight, after an amazing ICE group in Pine Bluff (LOVE ICERS!), I went to the last 14 minutes of my kids’ pee-wee football game. I spent the entire time talking to a man sitting two rows in front of me, who is the great-uncle of a student I had last year. It was an awesome conversation. He talked about the decline of our population here, and how the demographics have changed. He told me about earning his GED three years ago, and was proud and excited enough to pull out his wallet-sized diploma to show me. He explained the test and the classes he had to take, and how hard some of the material was. I really, really enjoyed talking with him.

Good Things

There are so, so many of them. I try to make a point to remind myself daily how much I love my life as it is right now. I am so blessed/lucky/overjoyed to know how many people in my life love me, to know I am a capable human and teacher, to know I have the ability to improve lives, to interact with 120 beautiful smart students every day. It’s easy to get stuck in the mundane– but just tonight I was talking to Ben about how strange it’s going to be next year. No matter who stays or leaves, there is no way this dynamic will exist as it does now. I want to savor every last second in this house, in my school, with the people I love and respect and admire. It’s the most cliche and horrible thing to say, but I definitely know from personal experience that all these things just don’t last. Gotta love em while we can.


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