Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Deeper Meaning - A Stronger Connection

Stepping into my classroom, minutes before my students arrived, I took a deep breath.  My throat tightened slightly as I thought about my weekend.  I wondered how I would tell my students about my Grandpa?  How do I tell them without crying?  Maybe I should act like everything is normal.  But I realized that they knew me too well.  They would notice that my heart was breaking.  So, I planned my morning around a class meeting, during which I told them about my Grandpa's death.  I told them how much I was missing him.  I told them that I would probably get upset during the day, but reassured them that I was okay.  Okay, but sad.  I looked in their eyes as the tears entered my own, and their eyes reassured me that they understood my hurt.  Following the class meeting, we returned to business as usual.  Lessons and practice, learning and sharing flowed through my classroom.  I'd feel that ping of sadness entered my stomach occasionally, but looking at my students helped me push through and keep teaching.
       Shortly after lunch, I grabbed a book to use in my reader's workshop lesson.  I wanted to look closely at character, and how their feelings, the setting, and other characters affect a character's actions.  I chose the book, City Dog, Country Frog.  I began reading the story, encouraging my students to write down their thinking about how the characters were acting and why.  With every page I turned, I realized that this short story dealt with a whole lot more than just a character's actions.  I began seeing my Grandpa, and feeling that ping of sadness.  I finished the book, and we wrote down the things that related to our lesson topic.  As we wrapped up our class chart, I picked up the book.  Flipping through the pages, I asked my students if they could think of anything that this book would make me think about today.  Immediately Jacob's hand shot up, and he grinned when I called on him.
         "This story made you think about your Grandpa.  I think that when the frog left, he is like your Grandpa dying.  I think you are the dog left behind waiting for him," he explained.
        Through tears, I smiled down at Jacob.  "That's exactly what I was thinking, Jacob!"  I agreed.  "I feel like City Dog,"  brushing away the tears I shared, "and I feel like I am in Winter like the dog.  I'm waiting for my Grandpa to return to me, so I can play with him again.  But when I turn the page, I see that Spring comes again for the dog.  When the dog smiles his "froggy smile" at Country Chipmunk and says, 'But you'll do!', I realized that even though my Grandpa is gone I can still take parts of him with me for the rest of my life."
         Closing the book, I dismissed the kids to go and look at the characters in their own books.  When I looked up, I noticed John standing in front of me.  He had the collar of his shirt pulled up to the corners of his eyes.  "Mrs. Rohrer, that story made me think about my Grandma," he said looking down at the ground.
        "John, I'm so sorry," I tried to comfort him.
        "Yeah, but she's in a better place.  She's in Heaven, and she doesn't have any pain anymore," he continued stretching his collar back around his face.
        "John, she's with my Grandpa.  She's with my Grandpa!"  I repeated, "Can I give you a hug, John?"
        As he nodded, I pulled him into a hug that I will never forget.  Not only will I always remember John, and his connection to my own sadness.  But I'll never forget how this book helped me heal, and see beyond my own hurt.  I still have my Grandpa with me, whenever I follow his example of how to live life.


  1. What a warm and sensitive post! You shared a valuable and personal piece of you with your students. Your Grandpa lives on in you and your sharing will long stay with your students.

  2. You made me cry. This is beautifully written. I went through the same experience a few years ago when my father died. I found the best place for me to be was my classroom with "my kids". Let them help you. They will be the better for it.

  3. My heart is bursting for you and John. You captured the moment tenderly. I'm glad you shared with your kids. They will appreciate being a part of you.
    Glad you are slicing. :)MaryHelen

  4. Beautifully written. I am sorry to hear about your grandpa but am so glad that you are a teacher. Your students learned a lot from you this week.

  5. What a beautiful post. Memories of my GP flooded my memory as I read. It has been a little over a year and I still miss him terribly. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  6. This is beautiful, Michelle! So glad you're joining the SOL challenge! :)


  7. I'm so amazed at the way you were able to share your feelings with your class. You're such a great teacher, Michelle!