Validated

2 a.m.

Awake…again…anxiety…

I have no clue what I am going to do in class today.

Yesterday was a disastrous mess. The kids were off the wall. The lesson went right over their heads.

Thank God, I wasn’t observed.

I toss and turn and sneak a peek at the alarm clock.

Only five minutes have passed.

My blood pressure is rising. I can feel my heart racing and the adrenaline coating my nervous system, shaking me into submission.

School doesn’t start for another six hours. Yet, there is no chance of me falling back to sleep.

I get up. I make a cup of coffee. I turn on my computer.

What am I going to do today to make a difference?   Come on, brain! You’ve been doing this for decades! Find something in your files. Monitor, man! Adjust!

I sit and stare at the laptop screen and try not to panic. Something, I’m sure, will come to me.

The cursor blinks…waiting.

Nothing comes to me.

So, I go back to bed and toss and turn for three hours. The coffee was probably not a good idea.

I finally drift into a light sleep, thinking/fretting/dreaming of how difficult the day will be.

Three hours later, I awake…exhausted. I get myself ready and head out for school. Still, no clear-cut idea of what I’m going to do.

In my classroom, I hurriedly piece together a plan and arrange the resources I will need. I am determined. The kids WILL learn today.

But still I worry.

The kids arrive and wait for me to begin.

I feel like such a fraud.

But I begin. I can act. The kids don’t know whether or not I have a plan.

I act.

I teach.

Still…I feel like a fraud.

But then, a boy from last year – Sal – enters my room with the rough draft of the paper his eighth-grade writing teacher has assigned. He hands it to me.

“I did my four-square, Mr. Ramsey,” he says. I’ve got the introduction and the three supporting paragraphs written. I think they are pretty good. But I don’t know what to write for my conclusion.”

“What is your topic?” I ask.

“We have to write a biography about an important woman. I wrote about my mother,” he says.

I skim through what he has already while scanning my classroom of seventh graders at the same time to make sure they are all on-task. Finally, I say, “Looks like you have a wonderful account of your mom here.”

“Thanks,” Sal replies. “Can you help me start my conclusion paragraph?”

“I can,” I reply. “But why aren’t you asking your current writing teacher for help? After all, she is qualified to teach you.”

“I know, Mr. Ramsey. But you are a WRITER. I need YOUR expertise.”

Suddenly, I no longer feel like a fraud.

I’ve been validated.

By a thirteen-year-old.

I glance again at my current seventh graders and pray they are getting something from me this year.

I turn to Sal and say, “I love your writing. I loved it when you were with me in fifth grade. I loved it when you came down the hall with your journal in sixth grade. I loved it last year when you were with me in seventh grade. Here we are on our fourth year of knowing each other.”

The boy smiles broadly. “Four years? You’re right! Four years! You’ve helped me a lot!”

I smile. The anxiety has been extinguished. As usual, divine intervention delivers an idea and the confidence to share.

“Okay,” I begin. “You’ve written a great tribute to you mom. She obviously means a lot to you, and I am sure you mean a lot to her. Why don’t you, for your conclusion, summarize those feelings and then describe how you are going to carry on her great legacy?”

“That’s a fantastic idea!” Sal exclaims. “I knew you would help me!”

I am not a fraud.

I have been validated.

Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2019.

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