The Lost Student

She strutted into my classroom nestled among students you knew were going to quit. It’s an awful thing to say but after awhile teaching can make you judgemental, you categorise, you’re taught to do that, to see the activists, the theorists, the troublemakers. And boy was she a troublemaker but there was something there devoid in much of her year. She challenged me and when she failed the year and had to re-sit it, she got me again. Call it luck of the drawer, I didn’t at the time, I nearly wrote her off because time is short and teaching is tight but she changed me as a teacher. I started to listen to her. She listened to me. We found common ground in the oddest of things, poetry. I helped her improve her work, she made me a better teacher. I remember a time in poetry we did a round drum rhythm on the desk – they were a good year that re-sit year she was in, willing to put their embarrassment aside to go through the sound of language – as the beat rounded to her she added her own rhythm, a counter sign that turned the language into a frenzy. She threw everything into it. Her past. Her present. Her humour. Her stubbornness. Her desire to dig in, challenge and accept. She would call you a dick. She would lay out step by step why your argument was wrong. She had one of the keenest minds I have come across in students and though this didn’t always pass into her academic work, I believed in her. It was with great sadness that I learnt she died this afternoon, a twenty something just settling into life, as I was faced with more challenging students. She taught me to rise to the challenge again. She taught me.

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