“WHAT THE [insert expletive]?!”
I do not move.
“NO WAY! I can’t believe it! How the [insert expletive #2]?! Miss Bogdany, come here!”
I’ve been invited.
As I slowly walk toward Christian, both legs extended and perched atop his desk; he need not move. His eyes are bulging. Is his look one of momentary panic? Complete disbelief? A moment of sadness? Regardless, the look on his face is all the body language needed to understand; this young man has just experienced the beauty of literature. (Although I bet he would beg to differ that ‘beauty’ may not be the appropriate word choice.)
This year has been remarkably challenging in ways that I have had yet to experience.
All gritty yet beautiful.
After three and a half months of trying to persuade…breathing (deeply!) through rejected book recommendations…buckling up for the daily roller coaster ride of never really knowing what opinion will be formed about reading that particular day; this invitation could not have come packaged anymore suiting.
While there have been constant shifts, differentiated activities, mentor texts, book talks (on countless genres), writing topics, unsuccessful attempts at captivating student interest…(we all know how long the list gets); one thing has remained constant. I committed, at the very beginning of the year, that no matter how many changes are made to our learning community, the Reading Writing Workshop goes nowhere! Student choice has remained constant…and thank goodness it has because the expletives, the lounging student…this is exactly how today’s position on reading needs to be explored; gritty yet beautiful.
As Christian holds tight to Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper (a popular read among students and the first book in the Hazelwood High trilogy), he points to this passage and invisibly underlines each word as he flies through the paragraph that starts “There’s nobody home – ”
He then pauses. His finger moves to the last line, lingers there as he looks up at me, and continues…”I’m sorry for all I’ve done – so sorry, …so very, very sor-”
“Ms. Bogdany, did you SEE that?! He kills himself! He doesn’t even finish his sentence!”
I am most definitely taken aback. First by Christian’s intense grasp on the craft of the writer and secondly by the wild intensity of a young man taking his own life. My eyes bulge too.
Then Christian continues. Again, his finger leading the way…
“Suicide! This is the police report. He killed himself.”
We both pause. The weight of the word. We both feel it.
“Ms. Bogdany, I just can’t believe it. I knew it on the page before, but here it’s confirmed. I had no idea this would happen.”
Christian has chosen many-a-piece that deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and this piece is no different. Here you have the main character who deals with survivor’s guilt after accidentally killing his best friend in a car accident. You can only imagine how difficult life, for Andy Jackson, must be. While attempting to ask for help throughout the piece, Andy feels as though he is alone. Very alone.
This piece chronicle’s Andy’s journey and the fatality in which it brings. Please note that students may want (and actually need) to talk about their feelings regarding this heavy issue. Christian did, albeit the way in which he initially hinted. Through the expletives I realized that Christian couldn’t be silent about the tragedy he just witnessed. He needed to voice (in whatever way that surfaced) his knee-jerk reaction to the shock of Andy’s decision.
This piece has connected Christian and I. It has given us the opportunity to chronicle his study on PTSD…and the real consequences that are associated with it. He was able to walk me through the craft of Sharon M. Draper. This book will remain important for Christian for very specific reasons as it may very well be the piece that is forever etched in his mind. This piece will also remain incredibly important for me, but for very different reasons. Regardless of the reason, we are both grateful to Ms. Draper for her dedication to addressing real issues that touch the lives of our youth.