Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sub Notes: Rise from the Ashes

Sometimes on my job I have to talk so much that I forget an even harder skill: listening.

I was walking around the room to make sure these high school children were working. He was done with his work, and he was drawing. Part of my job as his special education teacher was to redirect him to something productive, but there was such intensity about the way he was bent over the page, something told me I needed to ask.

“Beautiful,” I said. “It’s a Phoenix, right?”

He was a tough-looking boy. But here is a secret I learned long ago: high school children don’t dress to reflect who they are, but who they want to become. Tough looking ones often are the most sensitive people who are trying to overcome tough circumstances. He looked up from his desk glowing with quiet pride.

“It’s the tattoo I’m getting,” he told me. “I was in a car accident six months ago. They said I died briefly. But I made it. It’s been hard work, but the phoenix represents how far I’ve come.”

I didn’t do my job that day and tell him to work on something else. Sometimes nature lights her own fires, and all we can do is stand back and marvel at what rises from them.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. ~William Butler Yeats


  1. "Nature lights her own fires" is a wonderful line, Tammy.

    What a lucky school district they are, to have you as a sub.

    You definitely have a book of sub stories in you.

  2. I can't believe some of the intricate artwork I've seen from these future-tattooees. They really need to be on the other side of the needle.

  3. You did your job very well. Your phrases amaze me.

  4. So much wisdom and warmth in this post.
    And the quote is lovely.

  5. LOVE This! The school - and the students - are blessed to have you. And, I respectfully disagree... you most certainly DID do your job that day ; )

  6. I like this post about the boy and the drawing of a tattoo he wants. I agree that the tough looking kids need and want love and tenderness.

  7. Didn't do your job? What? Sounds to me like you not only did it, you excelled. The boy must have trusted you to have opened up with something so personal.

  8. Following our instincts is often a better course than following the rules. You did the right thing.

    Critter Alley

  9. That's beautiful! To me, you did more of what school SHOULD be about...giving children more leeway to express themselves as they learn HOW to think and DO instead of always telling them WHAT to think and DO!


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