A Student I Once Knew

a student I once knew

by: Shane Phipps

I could feel him sizing me up

I was just trying to do my job

but I could sense that he wasn’t going to let me

not today

I trudged ahead

but I could hear mumbled whispers

coming from a darkness I could never know

I couldn’t make out the words

but I was receiving the message

and it chilled me

like the gooseflesh you get right before lightning strikes

out of the corner of my eye

I would catch glimpses of him getting agitated

twitching

fidgeting

squirming

rocking back and forth

back and forth

he looked like a young man

who was just about to give in to the ghosts 

of the father he found with a needle sticking out of his arm

of the mother rotting in a prison cell

of everyone who ever failed him

given him hope 

and pulled it away

he looked like a young man

fully prepared 

to go down with the ship

I couldn’t suppress a nagging, unspeakable thought:

this must be what Klebold and Harris looked like

my feeble attempt to calm him

only served as a trigger

which sparked the explosion 

and then I felt the buckshot rage pellets

piercing my skin

like hot rivets of neglect

I looked in his eyes and I saw Armageddon

a frightened boy emerging from smoldering rubble

of loveless homes

of broken promises

of shattered dreams

I called for help 

gathered the others

and fled to the safe room

from there I heard the tortured screams

I saw the violent battle

the gnashing teeth

the blood-stained dress shirt

the feral desperation of a cat being lowered into a bathtub

just let him go

we’ll get him later

I heard

I saw him running down the corridor

free as a vulture

a trail of clothes in his wake

then, as quickly as it began

it was over

and I never saw him again

I wrote that poem based upon a real story that happened in my classroom a few years ago. Childhood trauma is a very real thing. Every student we have is fighting a battle we can’t see. We’d do well to remember that when dealing with our students. I learned a lesson that day that will stick with me forever.

And when I hear groups like Purple for Parents calling for the end of Social and Emotional Learning programs, I always think about that student and how much he might have benefitted from SEL, but we didn’t offer it then.

Donate to this website

If you like what you’ve read, please consider making a donation to help defray the cost of running this website and keep it free from advertising. You may donate in increments of $2.00 be clicking below. Thank you!

$2.00

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s