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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Will Never Forget

Today my students read their poems and shared their butterflies with the class. Then, I told them the fate of their child. If the child died (which all but 2 in each group did), the student had to cut down the butterfly.

This is a picture of Cameron cutting down his butterfly. Cameron was very attached to his butterfly. He was the first to finish on art day (Monday), and then ended up going back up to his butterfly to edit it the next day. When I asked why, he explained that he thought about it at home and decided he needed to cut off part of the butterfly's wing. Why? Because he explained, "If a butterfly is missing part of its wing, it cannot fly, and the children lost a part of themselves when they went to the camp, and they are like broken butterflies because they can't just fly away."  Yeah...

When Cameron cut his butterfly down today, I thought he might cry.

A few students did cry. When I asked the students at the end to share with their group what they would remember about this experience, I overheard a student say, "I will never forget what it felt like to chop down my butterfly."

You know what I will never forget?

I will never forget watching Adriana get choked up reading the last few lines of "Letter to Daddy," and I will never forget watching the tears stream down her cheek as I told her the child died. I'll never forget wishing I could just hug her as she ran to the bathroom to compose herself.  I'll never forget Claudia's face as I read the biographical information and she reached for the scissors, only to let go in shock as she heard me say, "Alena Survived! You may leave your butterfly hanging." I will never forget the way the entire class clapped and cheered for the butterflies that survived.

I will never forget the two students who had butterflies representing the same poet... who accidentally made almost the same exact butterfly. I will never forget the concern on Vanessa's face as she begged me to let her go pick her butterfly up off the ground and glue the rhinestones back on that had come off in the fall to the ground. I will never forget how many students insisted that we travel to Houston to see the butterflies in the exhibit in 2013.

I will never forget that for maybe the first time ever, my students really, truly, sincerely understood that the fact that 1.5 million children died in the Holocaust means that the world lost 1.5 million innocent, beautiful, amazing young people...

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