Now that all the packages are unwrapped, and we’re all experiencing the anticlimax of Christmas morning, I can share when my anticlimax started.
For me FINALS WEEK is the real start of Christmas. Except for one horrible year in my early twenties, I have always loved tests. As a natural born show-off, tests played to my strengths, and because I loved finals week as a student, I doubly love it as a teacher. I have always considered it an opportunity to see my students show all they have acquired. It should be mentioned that very few of my students enjoy finals week in the same way I do. Still, I try to make it fun for them. I always provide each student with a tailor-made essay question prompt. By “tailor-made” I mean that I choose each prompt so that the strengths and interests, the particular personality and style, of each student shows in what he or she writes. It is really a fun way to end the semester, writing to express the self.
This year I had a nice crop of responses. One student was asked what was the best gift he ever received, and he wrote about Salvation. That one was gorgeous. As the season progressed, I reflected on the various outstanding responses I’ve read. One in particular has been uppermost in my mind. I change the names here to protect all involved except myself.
One year a girl in my class (I’ll call her Clover) stood out as THE social butterfly. She was bright, funny, pretty, and popular. Clover laughed easily and often. Her fellow students admired her clothes and her confidence. Early in the year she began referring to one of the students as “SEXY V.” His name began with the letter “v” and thus the nickname. The surprise of the reference was that “V” was shy. He sat in the back of the class and said little during discussion. He was a remarkably talented writer, and so he expressed volumes in weekly writing assignments, so his reserve in the class concerned me little. When Clover referred to him as sexy, she did it with such sweet playfulness, that everyone else took it up, and eventually “V” accepted the name with nonchalance. When finals rolled around, I asked Clover to explain her name for this quiet boy in the room.
She wrote in her essay about when she was in elementary school. The shootings at Columbine took place when she was nine or ten years old. She explained that the incident changed her. She decided to never allow anyone she knew to be left out, ostracized, abandoned, or bullied. She resolved to draw in the outsider, to love the excluded. Even in high school she still held to the decision to prevent the kind of suffering, as much as was in her power to do so, that had lead to the carnage of that terrible time.
Understand, I am certain in my mind that Sexy V. would never have felt the need to destroy anyone. His shyness was not the sign of a disturbed or abused person. Clover’s decision to be sure he was welcomed and accepted in the room reflected more on her naive solution to a daunting, almost unsolvable problem.
I do not know what solution there could be to the problems we now see in our culture. I think perhaps first responders and beat cops would be safer if the civilian population did not have access to military style weapons, but they would still be in terrible danger. I do not think the extreme psychotic pornography of violence in some video games can be very healthy for any of us. I do not even know if Clover prevented one unkind word, let alone a rampage or spree or whatever the news people are calling these things this week.
However, Clover’s intention to love and be kind to those who seemed to need it meant something to me. It means even more now. It’s a cold world out there. I hope I’m a little like her. I hope I have drawn in those who might have felt excluded if I were not there to tease or tolerate or challenge them. And if not me, I hope another Clover sprung up to sweeten the world where she is. Cheers to those who love with purpose, and to all a restful and fulfilling winter. Let the blessings snow!