Category Archives: Stories

The Girl Who Didn’t Believe in God (and other stories)

As a teacher, my job is the most fascinating of all. Teaching isn’t the best part of it by far. It’s the conversations I have with my students, what I learn from them, about them and about life that make me go back every day. I’ve taught  students of virtually all ages, and though children and teenagers are my favorites, I’ve warmed up to some young adults, too. It’s all about the stories I get to hear, the fact that I get to be there for them, with them, to see them grow, as students, as people, as human beings.

Of course, I don’t want to break my students’ trust by any means, and I’m keeping this anonymous. But there are stories I want to tell. Stories only someone who’s been in a classroom hears. They’re beautiful, fascinating, heartbreaking. In each of my students’ eyes, I look for their stories. Maybe because I’m a storyteller, and a reader, at heart.

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From a ten year old, maybe I’ve heard the one I’ve felt the closest to my heart. Not the most important, because I don’t rate them. But the one I could truly identify with, even if our circumstances were somewhat different. Teaching English to E, she told me, among “I dos” and “I didn’t knows”, that kids at school shunned her out. They didn’t exactly bully her per se, but mostly excluded her. I asked her why, and she told me she doesn’t believe in God. I asked why doesn’t she, not as a reprimand, but out of pure curiosity, especially because E went to the same catholic school I went to. She told me her father and her sister don’t believe in God, either, and she didn’t see how it made sense. She explained me very eloquently in her ten year old words, why she didn’t believe in the same thing everyone she knew did. “That’s how they talk about me,” she told me. “You know E? Yeah, the girl who doesn’t believe in God.” And that stuck with me. Because for years I felt left out in my catholic school. Not that I don’t believe in God, but because I don’t believe the same.

I explained to E that at ten years old, it’s very hard for kids to understand different beliefs and why they exist. It’s very difficult for them to respect and include those who don’t participate in the same kinds of activities. And, even as I did tell her that as you grow up you realize that what feels now to be such fundamental difference doesn’t really affect all your friendships in the future, you kind of always feel a little bit the odd one out when you see the world differently from most people you know. It’s hard to find people who believe like you do. But we’re lucky, I said. We have our families. And once in a while, we find someone, I said. “Like you?” she asked me. “Like me,” I told her.

Twelve year old M told me her mother had told her God was the most important thing in her life. (I’m not following a pattern, I swear. It’s just an interesting story), but she didn’t know what she believed in. I asked why, and she said she didn’t know. I told her what I believe in, which is in spiritual evolution, communication with spirits, reincarnation — in short. She told me she didn’t believe me in spirits because her best friend had died in a car crash and she had never seen her ghost. I stopped short on my tracks, trying to think of a smart thing to say. I had none. I told her I don’t believe that’s how it happens, that seeing someone who passed away isn’t healthy to neither the person who passed to the ones who stayed. But I don’t think it helped.

Once, I told my eight year old student she was very cute. She said, “I’m not cute, I’m ugly as a cow.” I had absolutely no response to that. I muttered an “of course you’re not.”  but I have to confess that’s when I’ve been the most speechless. I debated telling her mother that she felt that way, or expressed herself that way, but I didn’t feel I was intimate enough to do so.

Once, I was sharing a personal story with a student I had befriended — I will do that sometimes — because I happened to be upset that day. She was older, almost my age. Twenty-four at the time. We were talking, but she was the one who told me that when she was a teenager, she got to weight 80lbs and no one noticed. “The hardest thing in life,” I told her, “is living with someone, waking up, going to school, working, coming home, sharing meals, everything, and them not noticing how much you’re hurting.” She cried. And said I was the one who ended up helping her.

A sixteen year old student told me once she wanted to save herself for marriage. I told her she felt that way now, but just wait until she met a guy she really wanted to be with. Chances were, she wouldn’t. She would change a lot, and she would see that saving herself, despite idealistic, wasn’t really a great practical idea. She’s still saving herself (I think!)

I think about my conversations with my students often. They make me a greater person. They make me a greater teacher. I love that they trust me to be part of their lives. (And I hope they don’t mind me blogging about them — all anonymous, I promise, guys!) ❤ It reminds me of when I was a student and I shared my life with my teachers!

What about you, guys? Any great students stories you wanna share? What about you guys who aren’t teacher? Ever had a great moment with a teacher? Share away!

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Filed under Education, Jobs, Life in General, School, Stories, Teaching

A Little Short Story

At eight years old, Louisa Jenkins had her whole life sorted out. It was reading a book that brought the epiphany she could hardly contain in her little body, or even in her dreamer mind. Everything was so clear inside her head, how her life would turn out. First off all, she would marry a prince. You know, those from the storybooks, the ones who lived in big, fancy castles, with gardens full of flowers, trees and little forest animals. Squirrels!!! She’d always loved squirrels, their little fluffy tails, the front teeth bigger than the rest and their little almond shaped eyes reminded her of herself. She could envision her days, walking around her property, enjoying everything had life so kindly handed on to her. She felt flattered, that life would actually consider her to take charge of such magnitude of wonders. She knew she had to have done something good to deserve such honor and she planned to take better care of her treasures than anyone ever had.

“Excuse me, sweetheart?” Louisa looked up to see an older woman smiling at her, trying to push passed the grocery cart she’d distractedly left blocking the passage.

“I’m sorry, ma’am.” Louisa smiled, her little heart beating faster in her chest, a tingle of happiness coming up her spine. Someone had actually talked to her.

The woman pushed her cart by, but the happiness in Louisa’s chest lingered longer, the giddiness of someone having noticed her making her feel alive and complete.

“You can come live in my castle,” Louisa whispered as the woman disappeared in the canned soup isle.

That’s when she remembered! Her life would never be complete without her favorite thing in the whole world: cereal. She pushed her cart through the aisle, deviating an alligator and a giant snake on the way (weren’t they practically the same thing?), running fast, crossing the bridge and, whoa, was that dinosaur? She needed to have a serious talk with her guards about allowing dinosaurs into her property. Then, she saw it. The Cereal Aisle. One of her very favorite places in the whole wide world. She started for the boxes: fuity, sweet, marshmallows, and… just why were the chocolate boxes so up high? Didn’t they understand that children needed to be able to reach them? Maybe she should have a talk with the grocery store manager as well. She tried the tip of her toes, but she couldn’t reach it. She jumped, again, unsuccessfully. Then, a gentleman walked by and stopped.

“Can I help you, Miss?” he asked and she smiled widely.

“Thank you, sir,” she said. “I want that one.” She pointed to the brown box with the dinosaur in the front. For some weird reason, she was in a dinosaur mood.

The man reached for the box and placed it in her hands, a smile on his face.

“Thank you, sir.” She grabbed the box and placed it in the cart, aligning it with all the other things she had carefully chosen. They would look so great in her kitchen.

As the man was walking away, Louisa called, “Sir?”

“Yes?” He turned back and his eyes met hers.

“Do you want to be my friend?” she asked, feeling her heart beat faster, her hands sweating a little, feeling anxious and expectant about the answer.

The man smiled down at her, and nodded, “Of course, my dear.”
Delight coursed through her body, and she was about to…

“Louisa Jenkins!!!” She heard the voice, and the lump came instantly up her throat as her hopes fell to the floor. She saw the man walk away as her mother walked closer, grabbing her arm, turning her around, demanding attention.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she asked, her eyes dark, angry, mean.

“I was…” Louisa stammered. “Just… getting some… supplies,” she finished with a sob.

“Oh, just leave the crap behind. I’ve looked all over for you.” The grip tightened around Louisa’s arm and the sharp pain sent a tear down her cheek.

“You insolent child.” Her mother dragged her down the aisles, and Louisa watched the cart with the cereal boxes, so carefully aligned, stay behind.

At eight years old, Louisa Jenkins had her whole life sorted out. She just needed to wait, maybe a day or two, until she met her prince, and he’d take her away from the dragon who kept her locked up in the tower. Then she’d have her sanctuary, her castle, her dreams. And she’d be finally safe.

Castle

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Filed under Fiction, Short Story, Stories, Writing