#SOL17 Paper Tigers

In the center of town across from our red brick courthouse there is a small theater. There is only one screen and the movies are always a few weeks late, but it is one of my favorite places in town. It is volunteer run, and they have the best popcorn.

I was tickled pink when I heard that we were going to have a professional development held at the movie theater and they would be selling popcorn.

Today all I could think about was my buttery popcorn covered in white cheddar. I did not look at what the film would be about. Sometimes, I like to be surprised.

I grabbed my teacher friends and we hopped into my car as soon as school got out. We all planned on having popcorn in leu of lunch, and we did not want to wait in line. Of all of the teachers in our district, we were the second group to arrive.

We were giddy as we selected the perfect row of seats. It was exciting to have variety in our professional development.

The screen already had the movie ready to go, all that was needed was someone to press play. It was an image of a young girl and across the screen it read Paper Tigers. 

The theater went black and the movie started abruptly.

When you are faced with a tiger, your mind turns into survival mode. If you are unable to escape the tiger, your mind never leaves survival mode. You are unable to identify real tigers from paper tigers.

The documentary focused on the crossroads of at-risk teens otherwise known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).  These student suffered abuse in almost every aspect of their home lives. It showed how abusive home lives, change how the brain is wired.

The school used trauma-informed care to help these students control their lives.

People like to say that there is nothing that chocolate can’t fix, but there are so many things that chocolate cannot fix.

I have had a bleeding heart for ACE students ever since my time in Chicago. In any given class, 80% of my students would be classified under this title.

The biggest thing that people fear when they hear that I student taught in Chicago was gang violence, but the biggest thing that scared me in Chicago was my ghost student…

He was the first person that I would see before school. No matter how harsh the Chicago weather, the warmest coat he had was a ratted sweatshirt.

I would greet him every morning with a smile and a warm hello.

His head would slowly turn to face me. A half smile was plastered on his face at all times, and he never uttered a word. His eyes would lock with mine, and all I could see was black.

People say that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. If that is truly the case, this student no longer had a soul.

He would wander the halls like a ghost in a film.

The hardest lesson that I learned in my student teaching was calling Child Protective Services (CPS) every afternoon.

It took CPS over 90 days to finally investigate the case.

In the film one of the school counselors described these students with the desire to feel numb. It is easier to feel numb than to feel. She forces students to feel, because your feelings will guide you to where you are going.

My student adapted to view everything as a tiger, but he lost his ability to fight.

While his shattered soul was easy to see, he was beyond a point where I could help him. I see students every day that are suffering from their home lives.

In the film, one of the ways a student was able to express and feel was through her writing.

This is why I teach writing. I feel blessed to be able to give students a tool to express themselves. I feel blessed that students are able to share their skeletons in the closet with me.







4 thoughts on “#SOL17 Paper Tigers

  1. Powerful writing here. Thank you so much. I love how you wove the strands of film and story together. The repetition of “people say…” was also very effective.


  2. Ahhh.. beautiful, beautiful, soulful piece. Heartfelt.. I can feel your heart beating.

    It doesn’t deserve to be hidden after #SOL17 Day 9, though. Please consider publishing this through your District PR, their blog, or somewhere similar.

    This post is meant to be shared everywhere. Forwarding it to my friends.

    Thank you.


  3. The path you are walking is filled with possibilities, danger and challenges. I am thrilled at your ability recognize the symptoms, signs and dangers displayed by these young people. I wish you hope, love,insight and patience in your desire to help. I hope the times of sympathetic tears do not overwhelm you.


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