Saturday, April 17, 2021

An Early and Deep Grief

 

In 1991 I was transferred from Hyde Park High School to Kennedy High School - a welcome change since Kennedy was a much shorter commute.  But it was the first time I ever had white and Latinx students - and this led me to another MA, this one in Multicultural Eduction.  But as is true with every group of students I have ever had, I connected deeply with several despite the change in demographics.  

In order to teach Jane Eyre, which was part of the Brit Lit curriculum with juniors, I piloted a unit using Warrior Woman (Kingston), Caged Bird (Angelou),  Learning Tree (Parks), House on Mango Street - (Cisneros)  and Lakota Woman (Mary Ellen Brave Bird) as small group reading before we all read Jane Eyre.  The culminating activity was for each student to examine the three strongest influences on their personality development, making references to our readings.   I recall this unit being successful, and the juniors did some great introspection based on issues that come up in these coming-of-age novels.  

Shortly after the unit was completed, one of the counselors came to our classroom to make an announcement to us all.  One of our classsmates died the night before in a horrible choking incident at North Riverside Mall.  Jennifer worked at Arby's and was taking a break.  She was eating and started to choke and ran to the bathroom.  It was there she died.  Jennifer had a delightful sense of humor, a great work ethic, perfect attendance - and I loved her.  Her funeral was the first eulogy I ever delivered.  Jen's essay for this unit was a tribute to her parents, her faith, and - I don't remember the third point.  I graded this after her death, and the only thing I could do was give it to her parents.  

About six weeks later I was at an in-service at Kenwood High School and could not stop the tears.  Delayed grief?  Yes.  When I got home, I hit my fabrics.  And this is what I created.  The spot of brightness is Jennifer.  I delivered this to her mom - many tears were shed.  

I just came across this Polaroid, which is why the quality of this picture is so poor.  What a sad memory of  good grief.  

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