Slice of Life: That Was Unexpected

Last week, our classroom received a gift that was unexpected.

“That was unexpected,” is what one might say to a student who acted in an inappropriate manner. No shame and communication of expectations. But the thing is. Unexpected can be beautiful.

I have a student in my classroom who is autistic. He talks about his disability and about his desire for and trouble with friendship. All the adults in his life are aware, but the nine-year-olds have not been paying attention. Misunderstandings have accumulated. Feelings have been hurt. Then out of nowhere, the unexpected happened. And with it, minds were opened and hearts were engaged.

It changed with a poem.
A poem he wrote.
That spoke to his journey.
That he read to the class.

Students sat transfixed.
They raised their hands with questions.
about the symbolism,
the title,
the images.

About his inspiration,
his process,
his favorite poets.

About him
and his journey.

And they said,
“I didn’t know you had autism.”
And they asked,
“What is autism?”

He explained how he sees the world.
And how he is wired.
And how many creative people are like him.
But how hard it is.
Because he doesn’t see the world as most people do.
And they raised their hands and asked:
“Can I be your friend?
“Can I?”
“Can I?”
“Can all of room 32 be your friend?”

And, we wrote poetry. We had to.
He glowed,
and said. “I don’t understand, I’ve been telling them this for so long.”

“But with poetry, they heard you.”

We continue to write poetry. And while all problems are not solved,
we have found poetry as a place to create unexpected moments
of joy and laughter and friendship.

16 thoughts on “Slice of Life: That Was Unexpected

  1. This is such a beautiful, heartwarming moment. How wonderful that connections were made through poetry, and what a powerful experience that must have been for all of you. Thanks for sharing.

  2. As I sit hear wiping my eyes dry, I thank you for sharing such a real, raw, powerful piece of writing. It speaks to your gift of writing. You capture so much through in the moment details. It speaks to your ability as a teacher to create such a strong community. Just providing a space to share poetry is inspiring. But you even go further…”And, we wrote poetry. We had to.” So much feeling was there so of course, you had to! I wonder if you could find a larger audience for this piece a writing? Maybe share it with an autism organization. It gives me great hope. More should have the chance to read it. Maybe your student could help you find an audience. Maybe your student’s poem and your class poem could bookend the piece. Keep writing! Keep teaching. You are so good at both!

  3. What a beautiful moment! I have an autistic student this year, and it was poetry that helped her speak about her loneliness. Poetry is a gift.

  4. Beyond words — this story would be a wonderful picture book. This story needs to be told and heard and felt. Thank you for sharing.

  5. “…with poetry, they heard you.” So incredibly lovely… and true. I am amazed at the power of poetry. What a wonderful, unexpected gift your students have had – both the power to hear and the power to be heard. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Words are so powerful . . . a power which multiplies in poetry. If we were allow to write only one genre, it would have to be poetry. Your slice is so heartwarming. It lifts my heart and fills it with hope. So fitting that you wrote it as a poem. Thank you for sharing.

  7. OH – so beautiful! I sang to my heart! For this young boy to find a creative way to reach out is amazing. So glad you were there to help him find his way on this journey!

  8. And another writerly moment in Room 32 where the learning was dependent on the needs of the students. How one voice can become the beacon for the actions of all! I can’t wait for you to publish all your stories in one book collection!

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