The marks they leave on our hearts

Always looking up, KH bet that one day, I would look up, too, and find the mark she left for me. I'm glad she did.

Always looking up, KH bet that one day, I would look up, too, and find the mark she left for me. I’m glad she did.

I figure you can’t be a teacher for very long and not experience the grief of losing a student. They all leave their mark on you somehow, and I keep seeing KH bouncing into the room, usually with her hair up in a messy bun, big grin on her face (her face was always tilted upward, just like her attitude), challenging someone to something. She won’t be doing that anymore, and that makes my heart hurt.

There is so much more to the story, but as much as the media has covered it, I simply am not ready to put any of it here. Suffice it to say that along with their parents, I lost two students, sister and brother, but in different ways.

As we – the school community – still reel from what has happened in the past few days, more bad news has befallen others in our school family. I wonder how much these kids (and we?) can take.

There has been entirely too much tragedy for this group of kids in the past few years, and I fear this has become the norm for them. Will they turn into zombies, trying not to feel anything at all? Will they harden and think nothing of inflicting pain on others?

Can we teachers find a way, through our own pain, to guide the kids through theirs and help them to leave positive marks on each other, rather than negative ones?

As this past summer came to a close and I was preparing my room for the invasion of new students and the return of news and yearbook staffers, I found myself in an unusually quiet moment one day, and for some reason – I still don’t know why – I looked up from my classroom doorway and noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. KH had inscribed her name in the dust on my overhead light fixture. This meant she had stood on a table and reached up to leave her mark for me to find one day. I snapped a photo of it and sent it to her in a Facebook message with a question mark. A week or so later, when school had started, she bounded into my room and told me she would be in my digital communications class second semester. Don’t think I won’t start that semester in January knowing there’s an empty space, but KH will have left her mark.


About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

9 Responses to The marks they leave on our hearts

  1. Edith Suiter says:

    A touching tribute

  2. Justin G says:

    Very well put. Katherine was an amazing person. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. HayleeR says:

    Beautiful. I’m sorry for your loss and the hard job you and other teachers have of somehow comforting our kids and sheltering from this horrible world every day. Thank you for all you do!

  4. Joan Shutts says:

    Having been a teacher and now a licensed therapist, I have felt the pain of losing students and clients. Each and everyone of those who pass through our lives leaves a footprint on our hearts. I would hope that I would someday be able to facilitate a group for teachers who not only lose students, but see the struggle that so many of our young people face today. Hopefully, this crisis will open the door for such an opportunity.
    Joan Shutts, LADC, NCGC-II

  5. Pingback: It’s been a great four years | teachjournalism

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