I Am Here

“If you can be heard then you exist.” (from Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrick Backman)

It’s almost summer break. I have four more days and then my district is done until August. A ten-week break.

I’ve been struggling with what words to put in this space. In July this blog will be 12 years old. I started it a good two years before Cortney and I would become parents, but after we had experienced our first miscarriage. I didn’t know what or how to share when I first started.

Since then I have opened up here about both miscarriages, documented my children’s early lives, talked about mental health issues like depression and anxiety–both of which I have/do struggle with–chronicled some teaching-related things, and detailed my journey through breast cancer. I’ve been vulnerable here in the hopes of showing people they are not alone and to remind myself that I am not alone. I’ve kept this space as a sort of time capsule.

We had author Kathryn Erskine visit our school after the 8th graders read Mockingbird, a novel about a 5th grade girl with autism who, along with her dad and community, is struggling to find closure after her older brother is killed in a school shooting. A piece of advice she gave to our students was to write down everything about who you are as a sort of time capsule. A way to remember what it was like to be an 8th grader in 2019. A way to remember they were here in this time and space.

This past week I told my students about this space as an example of Kathryn’s Erskine’s advice of time capsule writing and to show that writing can be healing. That telling your stories and putting them into the world (or just in a notebook) helps you feel real. It gives you a way to look back and say, “That was me. I was here.”

I wanted my students to have something similar, so I created a Time Capsule sheet for them to fill out all about who they are right now. I collected them and stuck them in an envelope labeled “Class of 2023,” to be delivered to the high school in 5 years. They thought it was a pretty fun idea.

Simultaneously, we were working on our final writing for the year: narratives. Students took topics/themes from Mockingbird like forgiveness, the importance of friendship, being different, determination, grief/loss, and emotional healing, and wrote their own stories that deal with these same ideas. It wasn’t until this week that I connected those stories to Time Capsule writing.

This week, on the day the stories were due, I gave students the chance to come in front of class and read their stories out loud for extra credit. I had read a few of their stories already during our revision days, but not all of them since they were paired with other students.

I was not prepared for what would be shared.

Thirteen and fourteen year-olds stood boldly in front of their classmates and shared stories of assault, parental abandonment, deaths of loved ones, deportation, child protective service experiences, and so much more. We cried together. We hugged. And we felt seen.

As usual, I also did the assignment. I shared mine with them through the whole process, so they already had access to mine. I wrote about the importance of friendship through my chemo journey last summer. I try to be real with my students in hopes of inviting them to be real with me. I never imagined they would accept that invitation so wholly and share it with their classmates.

I was blown away.

I was inspired.

I still struggle with what to put in this space. Who am I writing for? Why do I share my posts on social media? Should I stop? Should I shut down my blog’s Facebook page? What purpose does it serve?

And what about Eddie and Charlie and Alice? What can I share about my kids now that they are older and their story is their own? Our stories are interwoven since parenting them is my story too. But their privacy is important. But my experience is still mine. Navigating that balance is going to be tricky.

But I know now that I can’t stop writing.

My words are my way of saying “I am here. I am real.”

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. That’s so awesome. Way to go you and way to go to your students!

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