As I walked to my portable, I was hit by a strong aroma of onions and peppers cooking and by the realization that I was not alone on campus. My colleague Melanie had stayed to hold Cooking Club with several students. Because my classroom is directly across from the cafeteria and is equipped with tables rather than desks, one of my homeroom students came to ask if the club members could eat their creations in my room. I always welcome free food, so I was thrilled to have them there.
After the students finished eating and departed on the late bus, Melanie and I lingered for a while, talking about all kinds of different things. Will all of our students graduate from college? Will they make it through high school without experiencing a teen pregnancy? Will we ever see an end to the poverty in this region where we live and work? Does the work we do really make a difference? At times, I grow disheartened thinking about how hidden the answers to these questions seem to be. At these times, I feel bogged down by the day-to-day realities and logistics that go into trying to find the answers.
And then a student passes her big test after months of not passing any tests. And another student will say that he doesn't like Mondays--because Mondays are shorter so we don't have as much time for experiments. At these times, I remember why I love teaching so much. During the harder times, I like to bring up these after school special-ish stories to remind myself of the joy that comes so often with this job. And I love to share these stories with others.
Lately, I've become more interested than ever in learning people's stories. The kind of stories that you discover on Talents Sunday at church when you learn that the man who has sat in the pew behind yours for two years played professional baseball for a while before returning home to run the family onion farm. Or the kind that you learn when you find out your neighbor is weaving a tapestry from yarn she spun out of the wool from sheep she raised and sheared and dyed with flowers and berries.
Although my students' stories are not completely written yet--actually, I hope they never will be--all my recent interest in stories has led me to wonder: who will tell their stories? Some of their stories are profound, and some of them are simply amusing, but I believe all of them are touching in some way. Here, I hope to capture my students' stories, and perhaps even become a part of some of them, as so many of them have become part of my story.