Sometimes, we don’t get to win or lose. This is especially true for teachers. After talking to a student today, I realized how much is out of my control. He came to tell me that he knew there wasn’t any point to take his final for my class
Me: “Why are you here then?”
Him: “My box.”
I have been teaching in the city long enough to realize that his box is an ankle monitor and he is court ordered to go to school. He was correct. Even if he took my final he would fail my class. The funny part or the sad part, I guess, is that this child is one of the smartest I have taught. This is his second year in my classroom and all I could do was nod. Agree. I felt helpless to have to agree to his failure, as if I was condoning it in someway.
Me: “So, what’s next?”
Him: “Not being here. I'm moving to the County."
The County is outside of Baltimore City and lots of my kids say they are going to the County, to escape the circumstances they are in, but those same children often come back. He told me that he has a mentor that will take him in.
Me: “How are you going to stay out of trouble? Can you study this summer?”
Him: “I have nothing to study.”
Me: “Reading is studying. Keeping your brain sharp."
Him: "I only like certain types of books. You know, true ones ... I know a man who should publish a book."
I nodded, unsure where the conversation was headed. This man, he said, went to prison but he never gave up on making a positive influence in the world. He wrote the judge 500 times asking for release into society so he could make a difference. According to my student, his request was eventually granted. He opened a construction company that worked with downtrodden individuals and people like himself, who needed a second chance.
Him: “I like those kind of stories, one’s where they get back up.”
My student’s mother is a crack head. He’s been arrested more times than I can count. He lives in a group home. If anyone has fallen down, if anyone needs to get back up, it is him.
Him: “Mom has a little house now and she’s getting her baby back soon.”
I might have said, “That’s good" or shaken my head slightly. It was one of those conversations where we were on two different planets. I grew up in another world. My empathy for my students has allowed me to connect to them and become someone they respect. Having taught them for so long, I often forget what divides us.
Him: “I’m going to college.” He said this as neither a question or a statement.
Me: “I know.”
As I looked at him, I saw every single obstacle standing in the way. All the drugs and the violence and the guns that live next to him, that live in him. I took the stories about his life and I tucked them in the part of me that still has room for that pain.
Me: “Maybe, you’ll be like that man. Maybe you’ll have a story that will inspire people.”
Him: “I can’t write books.” After a few seconds, an amused look crossed his face. He knew what I was going to say. “Or poems.”
Me: “A story doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a person.”
I remember meeting him two years ago and never wanting to see him in my class again. This year, I hoped every day that he would walk through the door. It’s funny how stories change.
He turned to walk away, his statements still clinging to all four walls.
Me: “Make sure you visit next year.”
Part of me hopes that he doesn’t. Part of me hopes that he stays out of the city, until the day he can come back and talk about getting off the ground. He failed my class. I don’t count it as a loss though. If I did, that would mean that I don’t think there’s a chance for him. My hope is a deep root, the determined weed that sinks so low that even a skilled gardener cannot remove its stubbornness.
Later that day I walked downstairs and grabbed an award that was placed in my mailbox. It was superlative that some of the students and teachers got together to make. “Most likely to succeed – Don’t forget us when you conquer the world.”
I thought back to a moment in college when I had nearly flunked out. I got alcohol poisoning and ended up in the back of an ambulance. I definitely didn’t imagine that one day I would be a teacher and an author. I didn’t even know if I would ever graduate college.
Outside the school building, I saw my student walking across the street. Please ... I closed my eyes ... let him conquer the world.
I don’t know if teaching will be something I do forever. The student’s though, their memories will be with me, always.
Fairy Tales are everywhere.
No, Snow-White isn’t going to meet you at the corner restaurant for some apple-brie and Cinderella is not quite ready to let you borrow her glass slippers. What I mean of course is that the popularity of Fairy Tales has grown immensely over the last few years. From television shows to books and movies, the creative industry has been saturated with adaptations and modern retellings of the beloved tales. I say … bring them on. From Cinder to Once Upon a Time, the stories we grew up hearing and reading, have been transformed in the most wonderful of ways.
My novel, Grimm and White, is a tale that takes nuances from the Grimm tales and twists them, blurring the line between adaptation and retelling. When I first started writing the novel, I’m not sure that I knew that Fairy Tales were going to be at the foundation of the world I created. However, once I decided that was the direction that I was taking, the world transitioned from its grainy existence in my brain into a much clearer picture. One second I thought I knew where I was going and the next I was being dragged into the plot by forces out of my control. It was like … magic.
There are hundreds of reasons why people love fairy tales, but below are the top 5 reasons I cannot get enough of them! As a bonus, I matched each reason to a song that I would put on the Grimm and White playlist.
So here they are,
5 Songs and Reasons I Love Fairy Tales:
#5: A Lesson Learned
What I knew yesterday is completely different than what I know today. Every time I wake up, I do so with the understanding that I should go into my day, wanting to fill my brain with all the knowledge that I can. I would like to think that literature and writing are at the center of my journey to understand the world. Fairy tales are more than princes and princesses. They are mirrors into society.
Track #5: Be As You Are – Mike Posner
Let’s talk about the magical and mystical elements of fairy tales. In one story we have a wolf who has swallowed a human being whole and in another, there is a giant. Literally anything can happen! Fairy tales are kind of the best!
Track #4: Dirty Paws – Of Monsters and Men
#3: Dark and “Grim”
The Grimm Stories, as well as many other Fairy Tales, have darkness that coats their edges. When we think of the Little Mermaid, you probably only have Ariel the happy-go-lucky mermaid in your thoughts. If you haven’t read the Hans Christian Anderson version, I would implore you to do so. The Little Mermaid doesn’t just lose her voice. Her tongue gets cut off. Let me tell you, (spoiler alert) she definitely never gets her happily ever after.
Although morose, the dark and grim can lead to some really stellar writing.
Track #3: Follow You Into the Dark – Death Cab For Cutie
The Grimm Brothers weren’t the original creators of many of their tales. They obtained them from oral traditions, which is how stories were once told. There is something comforting in delving into a tale that you are familiar with.
Track #2: Home – Gabrielle Aplin
Even though there was anguish and pain in a lot of the original fairy tales, especially the ones written by the Brother’s Grimm, there was still a silver lining. I’m a sucker for romance.
“The prince said joyfully, "You are with me." He told her what had happened, and then said, "I love you more than anything else in the world. Come with me to my father's castle. You shall become my wife." Snow-White loved him, and she went with him. Their wedding was planned with great splendor and majesty.”
-The Brothers Grimm
Track #1: I Hate You. I Love You– Gnash
**Also posted on:
Andi's Young Adult Books, http://andisyoungadult.blogspot.com
About the blog:
Emily Ann Hansen
I'm a writer and teacher living in Baltimore City. I'm originally from Chicago. I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Fiction. Instead of babbling, I will list a few of the things in life that make me happy: