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Heartbroken: Morning Minutes, February 19, 2016


     “Syrie!  We have to talk,” asserted Stephanie as she marched toward me, finger pointing, eyes wide.

     “What’s up, Steph?” I stammered, backpedaling as she came on, a mini drama unfolding as second period began.

     “I’m done.  I am not coming back.  This is it”

    “What happened?”

     “I read it.  I read it all,” she charged.  “And I am living on only two hours of sleep right now.  First The Book Thief and now this!  I am done.  Not coming back.”

     “Couldn’t put it down, huh?” I responded.

     “No, I knew I could only endure it once, so I finished it in one sitting because I wasn’t gonna be able to go back to it.” she fired, stepping closer.  But retreat was no longer possible as I was backed against the whiteboard, eyes searching, seeking help from the rest of my students as Steph’s passion poured out onto the floor of 219.

Of course, as always, the scene was better if one was there, and it’s even better if one knows Stephanie.  She is truly a diamond among gems, a soul that elevates all of us to greater heights.  I am just sorry that I broke her heart.  I am even more sorry that I am gonna break it some more, for there are more sad stories to come. It’s the Holocaust.

The day before, I had assigned the memoir Night by Elie Wiesel.  This is after our watching The Book Thief as an introduction to our Holocaust unit.  It is a short book, only 115 pages, but it carries an immeasurable impact as it takes one through mankind’s darkest hour, relating the nightmare that Elie lived during World War 2.  Truly, it grabs hold and does not let go–ever.  And even though I gave the kids a reading schedule that covered two-and-a-half weeks, suspecting that some would certainly finish the slim volume sooner, I did not expect that any would finish it the night I assigned it. Steph finished it. And obviously it had an impact. I am sorry that our kids have to face such terrible truths from the past, but I know the more terrible truth of not knowing or forgetting.  Elie wrote the book so the world would not forget, hoping if they read it, they could not forget.  Those who read it do not forget.  And as tragic and traumatic as Stephanie’s experience was, sadder stories still will play out over the next two weeks, for some kids won’t read it.  Yep, despite all that I will attempt to do to motivate them and inspire them, despite Steph’s dramatic infomercial, some kids will not find the motivation to read it, and that, to me, is the real tragedy–my broken heart.  Sorry, Steph, that I had to break yours.

Happy Friday, all.  If you have not read Night, you need to.  We cannot forget.

5 Replies to “Heartbroken: Morning Minutes, February 19, 2016”

  • After exercise class this morning I asked some ladies that belong to a book club what books they would recommend regarding the subject of the Japanese Imprisonment on US soil. They recommended “Snow Falling on Cedar” by David Guterson; “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford and “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult (that one I have read and it gave chills). Both are fiction. Non-fiction suggestions were “Looking Like the Enemy” and “Only What We Could Carry”. I was hoping to find something about the area in Ketchikan, AK that were used and are now Three C’s Camp Ground and Park by Ward Lake. I hope that we can learn from our past and not repeat it over again.

  • I remember you giving me this book to read a long time ago it seems. I remember it breaking my heart too. I read it in one sitting as well. For me, the raw emotions experienced by reading this book are seldom matched in any other literary work I have read thus far. To this day, the events that unfolded in this book make my blood boil, and my heart ache all at once. However, the best thing about breaking hearts with books like this is that it inspires a passion that cannot be extinguished – a passion for justice and rightness; fairness and equality. This book wouldn’t breaks hearts if it didn’t reveal the compassion within us all, and I believe that makes us better people. It might have broke her heart, but I am sure that she will thank you for it later on. I hope they all read it. Compassion never hurt anyone.

  • First of all, let me say how much I LOVE and miss that Stephanie! You captured her attitude perfectly there and it reminds me how wonderful she is in every way. I love that these kiddo are “mine” first in middle school and then you get them in H.S. and we get to share our stories about them with each other. I am not surprised this story affected her so. It is one of the few books I remember reading at her age and I still think about it, with remorse, all these years later. I remember seeing Stephanie as a young girl out at the park, in our small town, playing with her family. I learned many years later that they had come here back then, straight from Africa. Knowing this, I can only imagine the “eyes” she must have been viewing that book through. Powerful stuff!

  • I was this book and it is empowering.; a good reminder of how we mistreat fellow humans. When Jenna Tamura was in 10th grade Honors English the summer read was, “All But My Life” by Gerda Weissman Klein. Truly touching! What seems sad to me is the lack of learning we do about the internment of the Japanese Americans of which Jenna’s Gma Tamura was a victim. “The House at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” gives a stirring account of the happenings of the internment process. We absolutely cannot forget!

    • Even something as simple as “So Far From The Sea” by Eve Bunting can be a great introduction. We spend a lot of time learning about the European atrocities of WWII, but neglect so much of our own. A great historical fiction, The Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury, or Hiroshima by Laurence Yep… Easy reads with HUGE discussion value. It is sad that in history we only study one side…American heroes, we liberated the concentration camps, never mind the other side of war. Steralization and negative Eugenics started in the US, Germany just took it to a whole new level. We demonize the Germans… Make them monsters & tell ourselves we could never do such things. We don’t look at ourselves and what we did to dehumanize the other side during war. How then, will we ever learn to become better?

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