My friend surprisingly came into my classroom during the middle of the lesson dressed in all black and with a look of seriousness. She quickly came up to me and I just listened in silence to her news. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to say. As she left, I saw my students with their eyes on me, I continued the read aloud of The Tiger Rising.
I kept reading aloud like normal, but then as I started to process the news, I felt my eyes filling with water. I kept looking at the book, hoping my students wouldn’t notice. I just kept reading about a boy named Rob, who had lost his mom, and tried hard to keep his “suitcase” shut. I felt my suitcase slowly opening as sadness tried to sneak out of the sides. I kept pushing it back in.
I was the teacher.
I went on with the rest of the morning, teaching the rest of the periods until lunch. During lunch, I came back to my classroom and my sandwich with sitting on my desk staring at me. I should eat it, I thought. I finished it and then the suitcase burst open. I wiped away the tears and composed myself. A few minutes later, two of the girls in my class came inside during their recess time.
“Ms. Kim, were you crying?” She asked concerned.
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t look up. I stayed silent.
“Why would she be crying? Of course not.” The other girl replied with confidence.
“Her face is all red.” She replied.
“I wasn’t crying.” I softly responded.
I wanted to tell them that my friend’s mother battle with cancer was almost over, but I couldn’t. I wanted to tell them that sometimes teachers have suitcases they try to keep shut because they have to. Sometimes we are like Rob from The Tiger Rising. Sometimes, we are human and we cry. Sometimes, we hurt, when our friends are hurting.