Saturday, February 11, 2017


He's over six feet tall, weighs at least 250 pounds, and last year, he took great pride in having made his teacher cry.

Last semester he was only present in body. He'd sit down in his seat, barely fitting, and check himself into the pages of a Brandon Sanderson fantasy. When he failed the second quarter, I wasn't surprised, didn't even think much about it.

But he did, and apparently, he'd given it enough thought to make a change.

This week, he came into class excited, "Mrs. Martinez, did you read page 139-140?"

I had--many times--but not enough to know exactly what it said. "Yes, I read it, but I can't put your page numbers to the story."

He implored me to read it as soon as I could. "I will," I said, "but first I've got to start class. Give me the context of what it says."

"The father. He's so strong."

That's all he said, but in those five words, so much was said.

I started class, then opened the book to page 139. Through all my readings of this book, the glorious annotations in blue and yellow marker, the stars, the sticky notes for emphasis, I had never marked this passage. It hadn't resonated with me the way it resonated with him.

"Papa, Papa!!" (his children) would cry, not because he brought them gifts--they were too poor for that---but because he brought them himself. Two of the three boys would seize his legs...and stand on his feet so that he could make an elephant walk...Sometimes, if he was too tired or too full of pain to play such games with them, they would sit around him while he told them a newly minted episode in the unending story of the Little Beast... (Phillip Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed)

These were the pages that captivated my student about the strong father, and his reference wasn't only to the man's physical strength. In the margins of my book, on page 140, my notes now read: 2-9-2017 Zac pointed out to me how much he loved this part because of the father~~Trocme is so strong.

Not only do I have the note, the book, but I now have the treasured visual of my student, overcome with emotion and excitement from reading about a powerful father. How lucky I am he shared these feelings. Good literature has the power to incite change, and I hope that someday, my student will become like the father he so admired in a book if we had read just a few months earlier, he may have resisted.