Today’s Greatest Hit story is called Johely. She knows that I’m writing this, so I’m going to use her real name. I’m also going to use her real name because it took me a month to learn how to say correctly. Johely. Joe-elly.
She came to school late in the year. Was it November? Was it March? I dunno. I don’t remember. She was quiet, reserved and rarely spoke in my Creative Writing class. (I’m pretty sure that class…now I’m fuzzy!) The times she did speak were patient but still incredibly meaningful.
And then I literally watched Johely grow up. Within the next year, I saw Johely lay down masterful poems in front of the whole school of her peers who rocked the whole auditorium with their applause. Her poems were founded in life lessons that I’m sure I still haven’t learned and her confidence overflowed onto that stage. I watched her talk to the whole room but her poem clearly directed at a particular human. I watched her get lost in that moment. There could have been no one around her, and that poem still went out to it’s owner.
She joined the dance team. Not ballroom or cheer (although those are perfectly great). The kind of dancing that makes you attempt to do these moves at home, in front of a mirror – when you think you look like Britney or Christina, but really you don’t. She had control over her own body that came from careful practice and constant study. Her attention to her craft carefully honed.
I was so proud. I’m sure this confidence was there in the quiet girl I saw in my class the year before, I’m just not sure I gave her the opportunity to show it. That’s not written in the standards they’re tested on, ya know.
When she was a senior I found Johely back on my roster for Debate class. YES. Someone who had an opinion, but wanted to know (and respect) all perspectives. THE PERFECT DEBATE CANDIDATE. She was great. She joined the team and really helped connect all the members. But I remember the first day in that debate class. I called her name and she said “Miss! You remember how to say my name?” I think I may have said “It took me dang near a month to learn, I’m putting it to good use!”
Later in the year, as I like to constantly remind the seniors that they only have a few months left to make their voice known and their (good) impact made at our school, she graced me with a beautiful compliment. She said “Beavers, you’re like my older sister. I can learn and listen to you but you also listen to me.”
Should teachers be friends with their students? No. I get it. I went to Intro to Education 101 (and 201 for that matter). But when Johely said that to me, I felt like I had actually been useful in someone’s life. This is not a ploy for compliments – I’m pretty fond of myself and think I make a regular difference. but this one. This one I heard.
And now I say to her: Johely, I would gladly be your older sister as long as you taught me how to dress like a normal human. I would gladly be your older sister as long as I was able to witness what great capacity for life and amazing gifts you have to share with the world. Students like you not only make people want to be teachers – they make people want to stay in this field. Students like you are our past, our present and our future. And I can’t wait to see what you do with it.