Unexpected News

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.

14 thoughts on “Unexpected News

  1. Stacey says:

    It’s scary when you cry in front of students. It only happened to me during read aloud (Kira-Kira, Number the Stars, and maybe one other book), but it happens. When they know you’ve been crying about personal, but you cannot share it with them… that’s the hardest of all.

  2. Stacey says:

    I hit “post comment” by accident. Here’s the rest:

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s mom. News like that is so hard to take in. It’s also especially hard when your friends’ parents start receiving diagnoses like this one. One of my dearest friends had a father die of cancer when we were 24. He was diagnosed when we were 21. I cannot begin to tell you how hard it was to watch her go through three years with a gravely ill father. The only advice I can give you is just to be a rock for your friend and to listen.

  3. Elsie says:

    Jee my heart goes out to you and your friend. Words aren’t enough to soothe a hurting soul. You are a good friend, stay strong for your friend.

  4. Ruth says:

    Your last line: “Sometimes, we hurt, when our friends are hurting,” is powerful. I’m sorry for your hurt, for your friend’s hurt, for her mother. That book, THE TIGER RISING, is one of my favorites. I like the journey of learning you don’t have to keep everything locked up in a suitcase…it’s okay to have a friend know what you feel and who you really are. I’m glad you are this kind of friend.

  5. Deb Day says:

    It is almost as hard to go through this with a close friend as it is when it happens to you. I’m glad you are the kind of friend who cries silent tears for her. She will need you in the coming days

  6. Linda Baie says:

    I don’t know the book, but I’ll be sure to look it up. It is an apt metaphor for holding things in, until finally the load just won’t work anymore. I’m sorry for you hurting for your friend. It is a big challenge to both support someone all that you are able to, and to acknowledge one’s own feelings. Best wishes to you.

  7. JenniferM says:

    Like Ruth, I thought your last line was so powerful. The suitcase metaphor really spoke to me as well, because especially teachers have to do that so much sometimes! So sorry to hear about your friend’s news.

  8. Christy Rush-Levine says:

    I have such a strong emotional attachment to Tiger Rising that my breath caught in my throat as soon as you mentioned the suitcase. This is a stunningly honest moment in your life, and it couldn’t be more beautifully told. I am so glad your friend has you in her life right now.

  9. Mrs. L says:

    I, too, agree the you used the suitcase imagery to really connect us to your feelings as you struggle to find balance. Blessings on you and your friend. Perhaps you can, in a vague way, let you kids know you are struggling with a friend’s hurt. If we don’t model these things for them some of them will not have the chance to see caring or friendship or grieving in a positive light.

  10. diana1litcoach says:

    I don’t know what to say Jee. Your writing was so powerful. I could feel your love, concern, pain, and worry for your friend. I could see you fighting back the emotions as you continued to teach your students.

    Thinking of you and your friend,

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