Friday, June 11, 2010

The Hartenstein Hall of Fame

(For years students have asked me how to get into the Hall of Fame, and there has never been a clear recipe. Mostly, it's because you have done some great dubious achievement or made me laugh, or simply because I have fallen in love with you. As the school year winds down, here are some of the most recent entries.)

Peter Yun
For your earnest ability to scribble questions on slips of paper for me to find randomly after class. For never cracking a smile, not even when I told the Five Chickens story, and for writing about your father, which I know was the most difficult, bravest thing you’ve ever done in your life. You finally told one person, and I heard ever word. You are good and noble and I wish I had your strength. I will take the secrets you shared with me to my grave.

Sarah Chun
For diary scribbles and bubble wrapping paper and bloody drawings that scare the stuffings out of me. You are a wonder! Your mother told me I was the only teacher you ever forced her to meet. When you stare at the floor in class, I try so much harder to make you smile.

Katie Wu
For absolute positive attitude and complete cheery disposition. You shine, girl! You are effortless and put others first, every time. You give me inspiration and hope, and that ain’t easy, kid. Thank you for always telling me about the movies you see and the books you read secretly in your lap when I am telling stupid stories about backpacking and train jumping. You keep me honest and true.
(The world can be a pretty rough place, and certainly school yards and classrooms often don't do us any favors.)

For Anne Lin
For such calm leadership and quiet dignity, you always lead by example. Thank you for brushing the other girl’s hair in class, for raising your hand before making a joke, and for being the first to open your book and turn in your homework. When a class doesn’t have a student leader like you, it has no hope of success.

Michael Yang
For believing in me when no one else at the school did, although it did mean you had to wear a wig and skirt in front of the whole student body. For grinning innocently and standing next to your mother during Parent Night with stillness. I am proud of you beyond words, and I think of you as a son.

Tiffany Chang
For writing mind blowing fiction regardless of what people say or feel about it. You have talent and ability. You make me laugh and want to run outside and eat trees. I believe in you, and I always will. Coming to Taiwan was worth it just to know you exist in the world.
(There are a lot of ups and downs at school. It's hard to make and keep lasting friends, and most of the time you have to go it alone.)

Aden Lin
For playing a flute between class and having such coolness and depth of understanding. You never run, you never act crazy, you just keep it under the collar. I wish I had your nobility and thousand-year-old soul. You make me believe that on the rare occasion, someone can surprise me.

Angela Lin
For finding me crying in secret in the middle of the soccer field and having the good decency to bring me pudding. For three months later when you were coloring at your desk and you saw me tear up again, and you gave me the picture. Here is to being a good human, your Winnie the Pooh bookmarks, and raising your hand and asking me to sing another song to the class when you know I am on the verge of tears. I thank God for your soul.
(Students sit in classrooms all day surrounded by peers, but they are evaluated individually on their attention, ability, intellect, thoughtfulness, and perfomance.)

Oscar Wang
For fighting me tooth and nail on every turn. For rolling your eyes and cursing me and being an absolute thorn. You made me work so hard. You made me prepare for every possible problem. And that 98% you earned on the National Exam would have still felt like redemption even if you hadn’t said thanks.

Reilly Lee
For putting up your dukes and spitting venom, for coming up to me in the book store and talking shop when all your friends scattered. For never shying away for a fight and telling Kris where to stick it. I want you in my foxhole. For letting me borrow your mother’s moped and then covering for me when I was late. If the world were filled with people like you, the word hero would become obsolete.

Janice Lim
Shakespeare said, “Some rise by sin others by virtue fall,” and you’ve had a rough year. I can’t imagine the complexities of your heart and mind, but there you there every morning waiting for me outside my door, and you never say a word. Yet when I am absent, you have the school secretary call my house. Writing this I want to throw my arms around you and laugh for joy.
(So why not make school a fun place? A place where kids feel they belong, a place they can call home. If in some small way I have made you feel welcomed and loved, then my job was worth it. For all my old students over the years, I miss you so much and know you are doing well. Thank you so much for such great memories, and for those I left out, well, there is always next year.)

Kevin Chun
For taking walks with me around the block and sitting quietly in the park, reading every poem I ever set before you. For never questioning my motives or methods but just allowing me to lead. And, of course, for completely flipping a switch and correcting your behavior the day after I sat with your father in the classroom after school. I am so proud of you. I am just so proud of you I could burst.

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