Before grad school, I taught English in South Korea. Even though teachers there are respected more than they are in the good ol’ US of A, there were still moments where we teachers had gut feelings about what lessons/classes/programs were best for our students, and those gut feelings were often not heard by the administration. Having students who appreciate you can make all the difference some days.
And here’s my flash fiction about a teacher.
“I can’t justify the creative writing program anymore.”
“Glen, these kids need this program. It enhances their writing skills, teaches them how to think in the abstract, gives them an outlet to express themselves. It’s educational, and it’s therapy for these kids.”
“You don’t have to sell the program to me. I love reading what your kids put out, but we don’t have room in the budget for non-essentials anymore. I’m sorry, Anthony. This is the last semester we can offer creative writing classes.”
Anthony Planck left the principal’s office feeling more like a chastised teenager than the high school’s most respected and veteran English teacher. The walk back to his empty classroom was impossibly long. Half his florescent lights flickered to welcome him to his classroom with too few desks and too few textbooks for even his smallest class. He slumped down at his desk and sighed. In his decades of teaching, he had lost a lot of battles.
A student had left an envelop on his desk. He peeled back the flap and pulled out the hand-made card inside.
Dear Mr. Planck,
Before you our life stank.
If we’d’a been asked then to write’a poem,
Our mind’a drawn a blank.
Disappearing in overcrowded halls,
We felt listless.
In class: voiceless.
For our future: hopeless.
You gave us direction
With a poetry intervention.
The pages and pages we wrote
With each red ink correction
Feel like a resurrection.
This class is our redemption.
Thank you, Mr. Planck.
Anthony stared at the dozens of names below, a signature from each of his creative writing students. Ordinarily, he would have whipped out his red pen to scribble down corrections and feedback so his students could improve their craft. No one is ever so good they can’t get better, he’d tell them. Instead, he folded the card and held it against his heart. In his decades of teaching, he had lost a lot of battles, but with each child he reached, he knew they’d win the bigger war.
On a side note, I once taught a boy who’s English name was Krause. Even though teachers, like parents, aren’t supposed to have favorites, Krause would be at the top of my list of favorites (were I to have one, which I don’t). My last week there, I taught his reading class about logical fallacies. As usual, he came up to me after class to get more information. I had a list of the most common logical fallacies and examples, which I told him I’d give to his listening teacher at the end of the week (our students came in twice a week, it was a special private school set up). I searched high and low for that dang list and couldn’t find it. His listening teacher told me that he asked if I brought it for him. It may seem trivial, but not getting that list to Krause is my biggest regret from Korea. Just thought I put that story out there in the universe, on the extremely off-chance that a Korean high school student whose English name is Krause reads English creative writing blogs.