She was always special, you know those students when you have them, earnest yet joyful, engaged and interested, smart and kind. A colleague of mine once said, “The truth about Brigit, and students like her, is that they really don’t need us; we need them.”And I have never forgotten that. A middle-school miracle among my eighth grade charges, shining on those around her, and making them shine, too.
And that glow of knowing continued growing. In her senior year as a student at a selective high school, she chose to complete her senior project with me. She committed to four days a week, four hours each morning, working with my latest crop of eighth graders on a technology integration project. But she did so much more than that! I was to be her mentor; in fact, the learning was reciprocal.
She became a working member of our teaching team, and the kids loved her. We were participating in the National Writing Project’s collaboration with Google in their “Letters to the President.” The enterprise demanded a lot of preparation and conferring while students worked as writers with a true purpose and audience. Naturally Brigit added to our technology knowledge, but more than that, she engaged with these student writers, and students who once eschewed writing, changed. She nudged them gently toward expertise.
On her final day with us, the project successfully completed and her time with us over, we met on the rug for cake and conversation, a parting “chalk talk,” and she invited them to ask questions. “So are you going to college to be a teacher?”
“Oh, no, ” Brigit replied. “I’m not going to be a teacher.”
Puzzled the young man continued, “Then why did you come here to be with us for your school project?”
“I learned to write in this room. That’s why I came,” she replied without hesitation.
She didn’t look up at me; her eyes remained on the student—it was a matter-of-fact statement, and one that is hardly the truth—but if she had have, she’d have seen a light there that has burned brightly ever since.
This is not my only Brigit story. New stories arise as she, a now-thirty-year old, continues to include me in her life. Today she and her husband(!) and I are hiking during their visit from New Jersey to Oregon. Maybe I’ll have a new chapter to share next Tuesday.