Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
MARCH 9, 2012 10:00AM

Starry, Starry Night

Rate: 70 Flag

Mrs. H, do you like constellations? The third grader stops me in the library. I found the big dipper twice. I tell him I look at the sky every chance I getI look at his sweet face.  I ask him if he's ever found Orion's Belt.  It's an easy one to find, I tell him.  He shakes his head no, and tells me he likes to find his own constellations. Dragons, mostly. I tell him maybe one day he'll discover a constellation so amazing they will name it after him. He is so visibly pleased with that the idea, it makes me want to cry. That would be so cool.  

His mother's stomach strains against the buttons on her coat. The winter has been mild, but she wears it when she picks him up after school. She pushes a stroller with a sleeping toddler.  Her long hair is pulled back neatly today in a ponytail. The rubber band is just a rubber band. The kind you keep in the top drawer in the kitchen.

I know things are hard.  I want to ask her when the baby is due. If her husband ever came back. If she knows how much her boy loves to look at the stars. I think I might tell her there is a planetarium right here in the city. You can take your kids on Monday nights and look through a giant telescope and it doesn't cost a thing.  

She says hello and smiles at me. She lets me know she has a new waitress job at one of the neighborhood restaurants. I wonder how long she will able to keep it with the baby due so soon. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I'll be at the new restaurant on Massachusetts.  I'll stop in one night, I tell her.

If I knew her better, I'd tell her about the planetarium on Massachusetts Avenue. I'd offer to take her boy one Monday night myself.  But I don't. Her son is not even in my class. He just likes to talk to me about stuff.  I watch her walk away with her stroller, her swollen feet, and her boy who loves to make up his own constellations.

He turns and waves to me.

Don't forget to look for dragons tonight, Mrs. H. 






Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Beautifully sad and poignant. I do so hope you get the chance to tell her about the planetarium--Finding his own dragons in the stars....God, I love that.
Even though you are here with us on our own little rock, I also believe that you are one of those stars up in the sky.
Pensive Person, I loved it too. Best thing I heard all week.
There's a seed in this... if you get together with other teachers and parents and organize a monthly after school field trip, he could join you on trips to the planetarium, museums, concerts and such and you wouldn't be singling him out for attention.
He'd be a lucky little boy if you DID take him home, Joanie. A day in the life of a teacher provides the full range of emotions. It's so hard sometimes.

Another glimpse into your world.
I love it and am glad you find the joy in children.
Thanks for this Mrs. H!
desert_rat, you are a sweetie.

JMac, our school is cutting out as many field trips as possible. :(

Lezlie, you know there are so many who need so much attention...

Thanks for the good suggestion, Janie. I will definitely do something.
god joan, I know I know. it's like you want to save the world. it has to be so hard. that mom is so overwhelmed and she'd be too tired to take him and I know that feeling, too. I've been on both sides of this story........

joanie, you are such a beautiful writer because your wonderful heart is right there.
this boy is precisely the reason that kids in families without much money need opportunities to go to places and see things that their parents can't afford ($$ *or* time) to give them. and it shouldn't fall on the shoulders of one kind woman or one good teacher - it is society's responsibility. i hope he keeps looking and that his imagination soars.

terrific writing, joanie - the picture of the mother is indelible. the rubber band lines are perfect.
Beautiful story in one way, beautiful boy -- but I wonder how long he'll stay that way? Why are we having an argument about contraception? We should be rushing to give this poor woman the pill!
Sublime, Joanie. Those kids you touch will remember you always.
Do tell her about the planetarium. Who knows, it may be the thing that pushes him into some glorious future -studying the stars, flying to Mars. Might even help his mom. Who can know?
I know you will tell her sometime but then what? Oh the world has so many wonders and children are so precious. It makes me sad. So sad.
this resonates w me in numbers of ways from my years w kids thank you r.
ladyfarmerjed, as always, I appreciate you coming by.

Lovely Monkey, yes! That's it exactly. I know his mom has no time to take him, and since he's not one of my students, it makes it harder to just offer to take him somewhere. (I've taken my own students places.)
Thank you for coming by with your big heart.

Candace, it is such a hard situation. We happen to live in a city with SO much for kids to do for FREE, but so many parents don't have the time or energy or even the means to get there. And out public schools want to cut out as many field trips as possible. (Why make a well-rounded child when you can drill stuff into their heads so they get high test scores?) xo
A heart-tugger this time you see him, maybe you can slip some stars in his pocket.
Does he know when we look at each other we're seeing stardust? He's probably drawn to you by the glimmering.
Why does this make me cry? You have such talent, Joan.
I'm sad for the children, the mother, and for you. You have a generous heart and would share everything you could, but your hands are often tied. Some have much they will never use but they will never share a thing unless they're acclaimed as being charitable. Life can be harsh but sometimes there is gentleness. Perhaps there is a family friend who likes dragons and can share some of their time.
You know you're doing God's work, don't you?

Teachers, the most under appreciated lot on the planet. How I value what you do.

You combine the sad and joy into all your post . . .
I just a popup that read: Something went wrong -
ask editor
he snoopy
he growls
I have this Constellation book Titled: The Feminine -
spacious as the sky
by Miriam & Jose Arguelles
It's ref Psychology and Transcends some lousy views -
It's drawing from spiritual and old cultural traditions -
I may spend some time with the book -

"unborn, unceasing, and spacious as sky."

I hope this leaves scroll and no go to space
It's heartbreaking to deny a child who paints images in the stars.
I can remember making up my own constellations--we grow out of that, unfortunately.

Joan,sometimes we are allowed to do things that are outside the norm.
It would be so helpful and nobody would object if you took him to the planetarium during the time of delivery.
I would.I have done things like this.One Greek boy needed help in developing enough vocabulary in his 2nd language before entering school.I did provide this help for about 3 months.
What the boy needed most was encouragement.
He has turned into an excellent student.
Oh, Joanie, this one just really got to me. I could totally see this mother. You gave us SO much information in so few words. What a wonderful, wonderful story. Please tell her about the planetarium!
oh, my. a zinger, straight to the heart. the detail of the rubber band is perfection.
The opportunity to be a mentor, to touch a young life, even with your smile is life's biggest reward. You must be a great beacon of light, I think actually you are.
I'm so happy you're in the world, Joan H.
Oh Joanie. This is so sad, and so hopeful. You write so beautifully.

That mom, with the baby on the way, and the toddler, and the first grader, with the waitress job she won't be able to keep, THAT's the woman who needs free, universal birth control. She is the one we're all talking about in too many blog posts to count. We all know that those of us with educations will always find the means to control our fertility. But that poor woman will just have kids, and the right wing idiots will call her irresponsible. I will just call her human, in a bad place, and doing the best she can.

Thank you so much for what you do, Joan, and for writing about it.
Great post, Joan. Profound and moving.
I missed this post earlier.
I stopped at Dunkin Donuts after playing basketball.
This makes me want to cry . . . beautiful and poignant
Your telling of this incident is pitch perfect. What a writer you are!
Good stuff. My daughter had some hard times and a couple of teachers saw her for the beautiful and talented child she is and made a difference in her life. To a single mom of a depressed teen, it made the world of difference to me. God Bless you for you may never know how many lives you touch or the significance of the ripple affect you surely have. ~r
Beautiful post. A visit to a planetarium would be nice, but you gave him what he needed most. Attention, validation and something to look for.

What a beautiful story, and you've written it so well too.

If it were me, I would tell his mother about how much her son loves the constellations. She may not know that already since she has her hands full as a single mother.

When I was a teacher, I used to send good news notes home at least once a week for the students (not just the students in my classroom). If you would prefer not to say anything to his mother, then you might want to consider that option.

We had rules at our school about the teachers not providing childcare for any of the students at school, not taking them on outings outside of school field trips, etc., as many schools do these days.

I can remember so many students with similar situations and wanting to help all of them and their families in big and small ways when their families were struggling. So I understand how you feel, but I think it is also very important in terms of professionalism to have clear and dinstict boundaries between the time a teacher spends at school and the teacher's life outside of the school community.

:) dragons, that kid'll be ok. Thanks for supporting his wonder.
I am so very thankful for teachers like you!
as always...just the perfect amount of words in the perfect order. i love this piece.
Tom, thanks for reading. You will never get an argument from *me* about contraception!

Thanks, Matt.

LM, you're right. Who knows? It can't hurt to mention it.

zanelle, I understand that sadness. So many kids, so many needing just a little...
To see the world through your eyes in your spare yet glowing, perfect words is to see constellations of hardship and hope in the sky. And to yearn for ways to help those on earth who should see dragons and possibilities in the stars.

I hope you can find a way to get him to the planetarium, but you've already made an impact on his view of the stars. Oh, oh, if you met him in the library, maybe a book on constellations? (And Candy always steals words right out of my head).
Lovely and wistful.
You painted the most gorgeous picture - of reality!
Maybe he'd find a beautiful constellation in your blog. I know I do.
Joan, I love the hope you planted in this child. You have a way of letting your writing crystallize your experiences. This is a shining example.
Why I love working with children...I send wishes her small family makes it to the other side.
So much sadness. So much beauty. Where is this boy's dragon?
I love the little boy part too, but seriously, all I can think is "Why is she pregnant again?"

Given the circumstances you hint at, the poor child will never see the planetarium if this Mom is loaded down with 3 kids on a waitress' pay who may or may not have support from the Dad.

How have we as a society failed this woman such that she either can't prevent her pregnacies (can't get birth control, cannot say No to a forceful man, doesn't know about or understand birth control and needs education?) or simply will not prevent her pregnancies because she actually wants for herself and (so far) 3 kids to live in poverty? I see and hear of this over and over and I really want to know why women keep doing this to themselves and their children!

If I have mis-read a thing in this post that got me to this mini-rant Joan, please let me know. I just feel so hopeless for that little boy. I'd love to hear that his prospects for his future in astronomy are not as dire as they appear :-(
Knocking it out of the park again, Joan. Exactly enough words - not one more or less than is needed to express both the wonder and the pathos. I'll be thinking of dragons, now, when I look at the stars. I'll be thinking of the many bright boys and girls and wishing for a bright future . . .
The next time I hear someone make a snide remark about a teacher, I will show them this post. Only a sociopath wouldn't be moved by it.
Loves this! There are such rewards in teaching, some are more touching than others.
Sweet and sad. I hope that boy can find a good way in life in spite of all the obstacles. It breaks my heart to hear about all the ways our system fails kids like him and women like his mother.
Awwww. My heart is stolen. Steal my last blog photo and tell him it is a dragon in the sky just for him!
Joan, 5 paragraphs and a couple of sentences and you told one hell of a story. I'm sure your heart fills up and deflates several times a day because of these precious little people and their parents either struggling to do and be the best they can, or hitting the right notes more times than not. This is beautifully written.
A sweet, sweet moment in time. I've had moments like that as well, when I've wanted to say and do more and felt, somehow, restrained -- as if it wasn't my place. But later I wonder about my place, and why it can't be someplace else.
Oh my. This is why we work with children.
Oh Joan...thank you for this piece...reminds us to be humble in our lives, for so many others are struggling even more than we think we are.../r
Loved. Loved. Loved.
I want to chase away all the little things that keep joy and hope just out of reach for this little family. I hope he discovers it very soon, and I know YOU will, in all your kindness and daring, help him to find it...
Sublime and stellar if that is possible.
What John Blumenthal said!
You always know how to get to me......
May the stars always twinkle as you walk underneath them..

☼(ˆ◡ˆ) ⋱ ⋮ ⋰
(ˆ◡ˆ) ♥⋯ ❤ ⋯ ★
☼(ˆ◡ˆ) ⋰ ⋮ ⋱(¯`•´¯)¸.(¯`•´¯).¸.(¯`•´¯)¸. ☼
(¯`•´¯)¸.(¯`•´¯).¸.(¯`•´¯)¸.(¯­`•´¯)¸.(¯`•´¯) ¸.(¯`•´¯).¸.(¯`•´¯)¸.Ŀ☼√Ξ ❤.
•¸.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.•*´¨` *•.•¸.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.•*­­´¨` *• Hugs ☼
This was both moving and refreshing!
I've been looking up at the clear starry, starry nights recently, Joan ... it's been so beautiful of late ... I haven't seen any dragons but, you know, I guess they're there to be found and in that little boys eyes I'm sure they're beautiful too.
Jonathan, thanks for coming by. I know you have had your share of heartbreaking kid stories.

greenie, maybe I will. :)

c&v, what a lovely thought. It reminds me of the Crosby, Stills & Nash song, "Woodstock." (We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden...) ah...

Jaime, I think some kids just make us feel like crying. Thanks you.

l'Heure Bleue, sometimes we can smile, talk to them, really listen to them, and then hope for the best.

Victoria, thank you for such kind words.

Dear Art, I will have to take a look at that book.

Stim, it is, isn't it? Thank you for knowing that.
Just lovely, joanie: so touching, and perfectly done. But you know, I think he will. I think he will . .. .
God, I hope that boy keeps looking up.
So heartbreaking. The connections we begin, but can't complete. I think your role in just listening to and encouraging this boy, though, already means a lot. I'm glad he's got you in his life, a bright spot, like a star.
Where do these beautiful ideas come from, like his dragon constellations in the sky? I think it says a lot, that this sweet boy feels comfortable coming up & sharing with you.
May he never lose his ability to wonder ...
to look for ... dragons ... in the stars ...
I completely forgot to come back and finish returning comments. Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting. As always, I appreciate it.
"He just likes to talk to me about stuff. "

I say that is a lot right there. So many kids just need an ear, or someone who isn't their parents, who just sees a starry-eyed kid.
I'm glad you're listening.