Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH (08/31/17)
TITLE: Portraits from the Rez
By Jenny Fulton
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
While this has proven to be true for each and every student I have taught, there are some who claim an especially tight grip upon the strings of affection.
Allow me to introduce you to a few of these students. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to focus on those from one particular place: the Navajo Reservation.
Some people look across the land of the reservation and see only a dry, dusty desert. Others look upon it as a land of beauty and mystery. I see it as a land full of beautiful and painful contrasts; a land simultaneously filled with life and turmoil, joy and despair.
I stepped into this world filled with ideals which had been building upon themselves from the time I was ten years old. It took less than two weeks for those ideals to come crashing down around me.
There were struggles with administration, curriculum, scheduling, basic living requirements.
The 7th grade class I was first given charge of was often beyond my control. Most of the seventeen students had been expelled or suspended at some previous time. They had gone through five teachers the year before and it was apparent that their lives in general lacked consistent structure.
In the midst of this chaos, a few students from that class stand out and make me smile.
Shiloh: The tough girl of 7th and 8th grade who was absolutely brilliant at math and displayed a grudging respect for me after a few weeks.
Callie: The soft-hearted mischievous one who looked as though she had stepped right out of the anime pictures she drew.
Latoya: The girl with so many responsibilities on her shoulders who displayed a sincere desire to do what was right.
Melody: The “smart one” of the class who generally stayed out of trouble but did her best not to act “too good”.
The months teaching this class had its ups and downs. In late November, I was reassigned to teach 4th grade.
That is when I really got to know Makenna.
Shortly before I began my duties as 4th grade teacher, I was sitting alone at lunch, feeling perhaps a little sorry for myself, when a petite girl with shoulder-length brown hair plopped herself down beside me, looked up with wide, excited eyes and said, “I heard you are going to be our teacher! Everyone wants you to be their teacher and we get to have you!”
Makenna had reason to know who I was and I was at least familiar with who she was. Her brother had been in my 7th grade class for about a month until he was caught stealing from another member of the faculty and sentenced to juvenile detention (not for the first time). I was familiar enough with their home situation to know that it hadn’t been stable over the years and that they were now living with their grandmother.
In spite of her unstable home life, Makenna was as sweet of a child as I’ve ever met. She was tenderhearted, full of joy and energy, eager to please.
One day, close to Christmas, another of my favorite students was reading a book I had placed in our classroom library. Before long, she made her way over to me with tears in her eyes.
“Teacher,” Isabelle said, “Why wasn’t there any room for this little baby? Is this story true?”
Before I had an opportunity to speak, little Makenna popped up. “Yes, it’s true,” she said. “His name is Jesus.”
Isabelle looked up at me, searching for confirmation.
“Come on,” Makenna said. “I’ll tell you about him.” She then proceeded to take Isabelle’s hand, lead her to another corner of the classroom, and tell her all about Jesus. That book continued to be a favorite among those girls for the rest of the year.
My heart smiles in memory of these precious children. I wonder where they are and how they are doing. I wonder if the 7th graders graduated and how the 4th graders are handling high school. I pray for them and hope that one day, I might meet some of them again.
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