In receiving an invite to hear Mr. Weiler’s class present their This I Believe mimics of their experiences, I was like 100% absolutely. I LOVED the This I Believe series that had aired on NPR and always wanted to do this, we did this one year in AP English and it ROCKED. My favorite podcast was this particular one –
I figured the same experiences of inspiration would today. What I heard and experienced, it will be pretty hard to put into words. Over the next hour – I witnessed autobiographical accounts of students that had lived through periods of abuse, self-mutilation, thinking suicide was an option at one point in their lives because people hated them, individuals raising their younger sister or brother, living in hotels, and stories that had me frozen in my seat. THESE WERE STUDENTS I SAW EVERYDAY AND HAD NO IDEA THEY HAD SUFFERED THROUGH THESE FEELINGS or EXPERIENCES – and most of these occurred in elementary school all the way up to the current year.
The bravery and therapeutic nature I witnessed as they were as nervous as the graduates that stood on this very stage the night before, in front of that very podium, and yet, they breathed in that anxiety, and after realizing people in the audience were taking in their stories, applauding their bravery and willingness to share such too old experiences for students this young and you realize this –
– the moments you think a student does NOT need an acknowledgement of hello, or getting to know them as a member of the school community, whether they initiate that first encounter or not, I saw so many needs to just simply feel they belong and often knowing someone is looking out for them and wanting them to be safe, all starts with just a hello and showing they have a place to feel safe. This hit me like a tractor-trailer as I witnessed student after student sharing accounts of watching their parents shoot up on heroin with their sister in the car, and having to act as a father, to the absolute ridiculous situation of children living on their own in a hotel and trying to not let others know so they would not be separated and more and more stories that I COULD NOT BELIEVE happened to these students. Full of potential and needing the support to grow from these experiences.
This is how strong these students were too while finding the strength to share this – at one point the intercom came on and it was like God calling from above and the current speaker looked up and yelled – “Oh Yeah?! Is that all? Are you done?” Granted some stories were simply about believing in dogs, Their belief in Nick Foles, soccer and more – every student had an amazing impact.
Amid this such high tension storytelling, these students found moments to reassure the “It is okay” by laughing over mistakes, over odd moments like this, as well as letting these instances lead to ways these students have found a way to find themselves again.
I realized how much more the students in all schools rely on someone – whether they know them or not – to simply say hi and ask how they are doing – so much rides on it and I realized how much “un-normalness occurs among the students who we see as “normal.”
When one speaker relayed how his six year old sister called him Dad – her brother and he now in his “This I Believe account” explained how that shattered his heart – I just couldn’t believe how much these students rolled through to even graduate and that is what took me to last night’s ceremony.
I found myself so pushed to provide a haven for students at times in the midst of realizing their hardest days are 20 times harder than my hardest – as we all should try to not forget – not knowing how grown up these students have had to be already – to make it where they are right now. I realized that was part of the gratitude I saw last night at WHS’s graduation, but before I go deeper, I will devote the very next blog to this amazing night, WHS’s graduation day. The connection between these accounts and the graduation day- I saw from this brave student’s chances to show that these students are stronger than they know sometimes and also our chance to celebrate their stories on their terms – there simply are no words. I realized there should not have to be, when there should be 100% action to show how many supporting individuals there are for others that need to find their way.