Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Letters to My First Students

A charter school in North St. Louis City- since closed.
2001-2001 school year.

Dear Tremon,
Remember when you crawled under my desk and began eating crayons at a furious pace and then bit and scratched me while yelling "F***ing faggot!" over and over again? That was silly. I still have a crescent moon-shaped scar on my left hand from your fingernails or teeth.

Dear Tre'Sean,
You taught me that "pink is for pimps." I'm not sure what that really means, exactly, but you made it pretty clear during a lesson on about colors. You also accidentally spilled the beans about your daddy being a drug dealer. No wonder you were so angry all of the time.

Dear Sheron,
Remember when I got a police officer to come talk to the class, and upon his removal of his hat and jacket you yelled, "TAKE OF YOUR PANTS!" Yeah. Please don't ask police officers to take of their pants, honey.

Dear Nelson,
I hope you're still dropping to the ground in the middle of class, kicking your legs up in the air, and making dinosaur noises. I'm not sure what that was all about, but I kind of enjoyed it.

Dear twins Raymoni and Jaymoni-
I hope you now know what the word "irony" means, and I also hope that you finally learned how to rhyme.

Dear Latray,
One time I drove you home and you found my wedding album in the back seat of my car. I had been divorced for about a year. Looking through it, you paused and said, "I know what it feels like to be unsure." When I asked what you meant you said, "Well, you look unsure in this picture. And I know what that feels like. To be unsure." I was unsure in that picture. It struck me as the most profound thing I'd ever heard a kid say. Are you still that intuitive?

Dear Shawn,
I like how you used to get really mad at me and suddenly, almost uncontrollably and against your will, give me the finger. I hope you're not doing that in high school, though. It probably wouldn't be as cute.

Dear Labrianna,
First of all, you had the voice of an 80-year-old smoker, and this was a little alarming. That and the fact that you cussed like a sailor. What 5 year-old says, "PUT ME THE F*** DOWN, YOU MOTHER F***ER!" when someone tries to hoist them up to reach the drinking fountain? You. That's who. I hope you have that temper under control, sweetie.

Dear Steven,
You said to me "I know what that says...it says "No ad..mi..ttance. Staff o...nly." And you were right. And being the only kid I had who could read at all, it nearly made me tear up right there in the lunch room. Please tell me you're class president somewhere.

Dear Asia,
I tried to get you help. Someone knew. I did.

Dear Corey,
It was me who was responsible for you getting hotlined. Mothers aren't supposed to leave bruises and pinch marks all over their child's body. I hope my classroom felt like a safe place for you.

Dear Jade,
You were really upset that people were talking about me. You ran to tell me during recess with big, fat tears in your eyes. It turns out that "people" were calling me white, and this devastated you. Guess what...

Dear MiQueal Pillow-Smiley,
You have the most fantastic name of any student I have ever taught or will ever teach in the future.

Dear Keith,
You showed up in my classroom with no adult or older sibling to introduce you. We could hardly understand the mumbles that came from your mouth, and for the first few months, I called you "Nyah-Nyah," because that's what I heard you saying. Turns out your name was Keith, but your family called you "Man-Man." You were saying "Man-Man." I wonder if you go by Keith now.

Dear Everyone Listed Above and All Other Students Not Listed,
I took your dirty clothes home and washed them. I purchased tiny little blue pants and skirts and tiny little white shirts. Tiny belts. Tiny socks. Tiny shoes. Tiny underwear. Snacks for snack time. Pillows for nap time. I hit the "play" button on the cd player and let Norah Jones sing you to sleep while I went around and tucked each one of you in. "Have a good sleep. Have a good sleep." I repeated this over and over and touched each of your heads. I wanted you to know that peaceful sleep was possible and that you were loved. Some of you would continue to stare at me until your lids got too heavy to remain open. Each slow blink= yes, I'm still here. Yes, I'm still here. Yes, I'm still here.

Yes, I'm still here.

Yes, I'm still here.

Yes, I'm still here.


  1. Bridget.....I remember these children. I know you were their safe place. I wonder about them too.

  2. This breaks my heart over and over and over. I know these children, too, and their "cousins", "aunties", "brothers", "sisters", "play brother/sister", "Daddy", on and on. Just keep throwing the starfish back into the sea. One at a time, over and over.

  3. Wow! That was so awesome, they were so lucky to have you!
    Kim McKinney