to be a teacher.

i walked through the doors right as the service was starting. 
i quickly slid into the pew and tried my best not to count the number of people there.
i immediately spotted my fellow teachers.
there to offer support and a hug and a card with thoughts and prayers tucked inside.

nothing in me wanted to be there.
in that church.
in black.
watching the sunshine cascade across the stained glass.

it wasn't fair.
it wasn't right.
it didn't make sense.

i sat in the dean's office and heard the story.
the story of a mom in the hospital and not expected to recover.
a dad who had died only two years prior.
two boys left without parents.
one of them, my student.
my heart sunk so deep into my chest.

then he told me in my classroom doorway about his mom.
he told me that she had died.
and i told him all i knew to say.
that we loved him and we were there for him and i would buy him anything he could ever want in his entire life (my feeble attempt to contribute).
he said thank you with tears in his eyes.
and then i started crying and the conversation quickly ended.

and so there i found myself.
at my student's mother's memorial service.
her picture next to a bouquet of roses at the front of the church.

he was wearing a batman t-shirt because it was black.
i had to wonder if it was all he had.

at the end of the service, he gave all of us hugs.
in the perfectly awkward way an eight grade boy hugs his teachers.
and then it was over.
we walked away.

i drove home.
to a home.
to a family.
knowing that my student, the one who wants to be a professional wrestler, the one who loves to ask questions at the strangest of times, the one with the sweet smile and the most caring of hearts, was feeling more alone than he ever has in his life.

and i was angry.
i am angry.
i don't understand. 
i feel helpless and heartbroken and full of questions.
i wanted to save and rescue, but i know i can't.

i guess in that church i was reminded again what it means to be a teacher.
to care and love and feel so deeply for kids.
and pray for redemption in the midst of despair.



  1. Awww Hannah... this is so sweetly written. And with tears in my eyes, I feel like all I can say is that you are a wonderful person for doing what you do.
    When I went through some terrible things in my childhood, I YEARNED for those teachers who just wanted to be there for me. It's what made me decide to study education and although I never became a teacher; they will still remain the most amazing people I've ever known. Oh, and the strongest.
    You are great. xo

  2. You're a great teacher, Mrs. Lesley. Those kids are lucky to have you!

  3. Oh friend. I am so, so sorry. You are stronger than you think, and so is your student. Hope will find him--in fact you have already begun to illuminate Hope for him. Love always wins, and your love is a part of his story.

  4. Hey Hannah,

    I had a similar moment like this a few years ago with a student of mine, Nick. He was a ninth grader with a 'smart' attitude, but I enjoyed this kid from the beginning. I often had to keep him after school for being just downright stubborn and defiant, but during those times, he would open up to me about his life at home. It was in those moments that I was able to encourage him and help him see some glimpses of hope. At the end of the year, I saw a more mature, calm, and positive student! I was thrilled at this change and was excited to see what was in store. Then, a mere three weeks after school ended, his older brother (by 2 years) drowned in a lake. I attended his brother's wake and Nick was awkwardly shaking hands with strangers offering him condolences. (His older brother attended a different high school so Nick didn't know any of the attendee's) When I went up to him, he gave me the biggest hug and started sobbing. I had NO idea what to say or how to make it better. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just BE there. That's what I learned on that day. Being a teacher can be INCREDIBLY stressful, challenging, and aggravating, but I truly believe it is one of the most rewarding and life changing jobs ever. :) I know you are making a huge impact on lives, Hannah. In little moments (that you don't know about) and in big ones (that you do)! Alex