Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Violet Affection

I'd heard about them long before they came to my classroom for math. “You think “Jeremy” was tough? Wait until you get the twins.” They were known as trouble makers, slackers, learning disabled, behaviorally horrid, and for their brute of a father who made any sort of consequences imposed by the school impossible to be applied. And they lived across the street from the middle school.

Middle school is challenging for everyone, student, teacher and parent alike. I made it my mission to be a teacher that troubled kids could come to, trust, learn from, and gain some self-confidence in the process. To this end, I started each school year with this speech.

I promise to ignore everything I've heard about you from your previous teachers, if you promise to in turn ignore all that you've heard about me from previous students. Let's give each other a fresh start right now. We've just met each other, and we'll take it from here.”

Sometimes this speech was met with giggles.
Sometimes it was met with, “I know you've heard about me. I don't believe it.”
Well, you're just going to have to trust me. I'm willing to try if you are.”

I've said it before, but I wasn't a normal teacher. I tried to be casual and approachable, and just a little off the wall to keep them on their toes. Bored teenagers can be scary. When “Jackson” and “Josiah” arrived, they were at the top of my list for needing extra effort. Their dad was a prominent business man, African-American, and a former football hero. He was scary huge. I never met their mother, she was long gone, but the rumors were of a petite blond who took off right after the twins were born. The boys carried their mixed race as a big “keep away” sign. I welcomed them warmly, and made sure I spoke to them individually each day.

What are you drawing, Josiah? That looks amazing.”

It's what the inside of my brain feels like trying to do math!” he grinned. Math was not his strong point, we'll leave it at that. But that labyrinth of never intersecting, carefully shaded corridors wandering off the edge of his notebook was brilliant. He was a gifted artist. He didn't get to take art, though. That time was spent with the special education teachers.

Jackson was a tougher nut to crack. Let's say that the chip on his shoulder was weighing him much further down. Unlike Josiah who had talent in art, Jackson was a talented athlete. He just never got to compete because he was always too low in his grades and too high on the amount of detention needing to be served. (Um, can you tell how I feel about them taking away the one thing at which they could excel? Yeah, not happy.)

We made it through the school year one day at a time, and by the end of the year, those boys had been to my house to do yard-work to earn money for the much-anticipated trip the the zoo, and helped The Engineer and me move our 180 gallon fish tank from our first apartment to our very own house. That took all day. It wasn't long after that Saturday that I ran into their dad at my favorite restaurant. I knew he frequented the place, because rumors had it that he was dating the manager. I smiled and waved. He GOT UP and came to MY TABLE, and I'll admit I got nervous. But his handsome face broke into a huge grin.
Now don't go thinking I haven't noticed what you've done for my boys. Your dinner's on me.” I couldn't have been more shocked.

On the last day of school, Josiah presented me with a gift. It was clumsily wrapped, and he was very nervous. I opened it with a grin and found this

It's my favorite violet ever.

This is the last week of Alphabe-Thursday Rainbow Summer School.  This week is violet.  Head on over to Jenny's for more great violet posts.


Nora Johnson said...

That's a beautiful gift!

Lola & Nora:)

Cheryl said...

Brilliant post for violet. Your story gave me goosebumps. You sound like one hell of a fine teacher.

Where are the kids today?

Pearl Maple said...

That is simply beautiful, hope it makes you smile every time you see it.

Terra said...

You are eloquent...very nice

Catherine said...


Brian Miller said...

aw...what a sweet tale...and good job being one of those teachers...mine was Mrs. Callahan...she helped me be who i am today...and i will never forget these guys will never forget you...

steveroni said...

Violet--beginning now--is my favorite color!

I had several teachers like you...all nuns. And I DO remember their names. And their faith (in me) saw me through lots of years of rather difficult hours, days, weeks and months.

Thank you again for a real neat story of the twins...and others--and for posting the art of Josiah.

--Regards from violet-a-roni!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What a wonderful thing you did for those boys self esteem! You are the kind of teacher all children should be lucky enough to have.

Happy Alphabe Thursday!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

You helped them bloom and then got to share it watching them blossom. What a great reminder of how your gift as a teacher touched a student's life.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Now that's two days in a row that you have made me cry, Tina. You are truly special.

signed...bkm said...

You have some amazing stories being a must be a very good sound like a blessing to children...bkm

Sue said...

And this is one of my favorite stories ever. What a treasure! The quintessential violet post.


My name is PJ. said...

My heart grew a few sizes reading this post, Tina! Why isn't it framed and hung on the wall? Come on! You can do it!!

RNSANE said...

You clearly made a big difference in the lives of those boys and Josiah showed you how much with the most special of gifts, something from the heart. It makes all the difference when a teacher really takes the time ( and I know it is hard in this day and age when classes are so large ) to work individually with children, especially those with special needs!

5thsister said...

I wish there were more teachers like you in the world! What a treasured gift. God bless you!

Levonne said...

Beautiful violet! Thanks for being a teacher and doing your best to be a good one!

misssrobin said...

What a beautiful story and beautiful gift. Thank you for looking for the hidden gems in your students.

Aging Mommy said...

What a wonderful post - what a great teacher you were and how lucky those boys were to have you as their teacher. I do hope they both did get in time to do the subjects they excelled at - what a crazy system that prevents a child from doing the things they do best.

Pondside said...

Hard to say which gift meant more to you - the flower or the flowering!

Cheryl D. said...

What a great story! And what a talented artist. That picture is gorgeous. That's so cool that you've made such a huge impact on their lives. I'm sure it's rewarding to know that you're the teacher a future parent will tell their kids about who inspired them! Just beautiful!

Anna said...

Dear Tina,
What a wonderful story about the twins! Perfect for the violet post. I would have also been very pleased to get that violet as a gift from from a pupil.
I wrote a poem for Mrs. Denise Nesbitt's ABC-Wednesday - H. My H-word is 'Happiness'
I wrote it in English and then translated it or wrote a Swedish language version with you in mind.
Please take a peek at them both, whenever you get the time.
Best wishes,
Anna's H-word-abcWed

For the benefit of other readers:
Anna's Rainbow Violet

H said...

Brilliant! Good for you...and I'm under no illusions about how hard that relationship must have been. Some kids are sheer hard work. Well done you for giving them the time and relationship they needed.

Jenny said...


What a wonderful story and what a wonderful accolade to the beauty of your teaching.

I am so touched by this link.

It made me quite teary.

Thank you for helping to make Rainbow Summer School so amazing.

Thank you for linking.