The 8:25 AM bell signaled the end of freedom and the beginning of another school day for twenty-three sophomore students and their teacher, Jamie Martin. The sound of the last two feet shuffling in must belong to Jeremy. His sheepish grin had kept him off of the tardy list more than once. Part of his last-minute ritual was to kick the door stop upward and allow the door to slam shut. No one seemed to notice the room-jarring bang anymore.
Jamie lifted her head to address her young charges. But, it was as though someone had pressed the mute button for the room. She sighed at the sight of so much diversity in one space. The classroom was rife with silent clues to the inward identities and daily struggles that battled for the attention of each mind.
Front and center was Candace. She had already settled in, her right foot tucked in securely behind her left, and her textbook open to today’s chapter. Her assignment sat neatly perched on her desk waiting for the call to be handed in. Every teacher should have at least one Candace.
Seated next to Candace was her admirer. Scruffy and always a little distracted, Andy’s side glances at the object of his affection reminded Jamie of the black cat clock with eyes that dart from side to side with every tick. Poor Andy would need an extreme makeover to find his way to Candace’s list of candidates for prince charming.
Next to the wall and four rows back, the top of J. T.’s head meant he had spent another sleepless night listening to the rantings of his father aimed at everyone who crossed his path and at as many unfounded shadows of those he thought were sharing his space. J. T. was trying. Jamie knew he would eventually rouse enough to survive another day of classroom lectures and assignments.
Derinda the dreamer was at her favorite place closest to the cleanest window. How she ever heard one word in class was a wonder to Jamie. Derinda’s eyes were fixed on every cloud that passed by. On a cloudless day, rustling leaves or the resident sparrows were her ticket to another place. Was she plotting her first novel? Planning a life abroad? Too bad she couldn’t enjoy the moments of her sixteen years before they …”Oh, no. Is that a baby bump?”
Jamie’s eyes landed on the central seats always filled with the “in crowd”. They traveled in a pack. One would think they had been tethered at the ankles from birth, the way they moved in unison through every hallway and classroom. “Wonder what would happen if even one of them ever broke rank? It wouldn’t be a pretty sight,” Jamie mused.
Love was blossoming in first-hour English. Two seats on the second row and near the wall had become the favorite setting for Lisa’s hair twirling and Rob’s lat flexing. What an honor to have the future Homecoming King and Queen in this very room. Assuming, of course, their undying love would still be alive in two years.
The natives of the back-row jungle were already restless. Their tattoos and body piercings were just threatening enough for the other students to give them plenty of space. Even the teachers ventured into their territory cautiously, when necessary, to set their posture and maintain security. There were days that their collective eyes were more intent on certain students. A whispered warning among teachers would bring heightened security measures between classes. Too bad these kids couldn’t see their own potential. The negative forces in their lives seemed to have the loudest voices.
The remaining students were, seemingly, the invisible ones. They showed up every day, did the work, then moved on to the next class.
Jamie took a deep breath and slowly pushed against the edge of her desk to stand. She took one more look around the room at those entrusted to her care for the next fifty-five minutes: “Okay, Lord. Just you and me. You brought me to it, and I know You’ll bring me through it. Please love each one through me for one more day.”
“Good morning, class. Let’s get started.”
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