I double-checked the address in the newspaper, but I knew the neighborhood and knew the answer: it was my 15-year-old student, Lorenzo. In each letter I now write, I mention what an asset the student has been in my class and how he or she has improved.
As students turn in their final exams, I hand them the handwritten letters to take home.
We were on our own—except for the single hour when Mr.
Haught, the art teacher, came to "mess up" my classroom with his projects. That first December, the high school hosted a Christmas door-decorating contest; the prize was a Coke-and-pizza party.
For many of my students, this contest was their first success in a school-related event. "He treasured the Christmas card you gave him on the day before Christmas break.
But it was Lorenzo who made the moment particularly powerful. Instead of asking me to leave, the nurse told me that hearing is the last sense a person loses, so if I wanted to talk to him that maybe he could hear me. It was the first personal Christmas card anyone had ever given him, and he hung it in the living room near the window for everyone in the family to admire." The Christmas card!
The door-decorating contest rules specifically stated that students could not work on the door during "instructional time." Lorenzo, who had always been the first student to rush out the classroom door whistling loudly or screaming, even started to stay after school to work on completing the door project.
TMA's Lower School Student Council held a Christmas Door Decorating Contest. The doors were judged, and the winners received a casual day.
By: Melba Salazar-Lucio Publication: The Quarterly, Vol. 1 Date: 2005 Summary: A Christmas door–decorating contest inspires a class of at-risk high school students to drop their apathy, and a Christmas card from the teacher touches one student more deeply than she could have imagined. Our district, he explained, was implementing the Students Taught in an Alternative Return to Success program—a program, also known as STARS, for "at-risk" students—and he wanted me to take on one of the STARS classrooms.
I watched him as, acting as the classroom host, he showed off the door's lights and musical parts. On the way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, I asked my husband to drive me to the hospital to see Lorenzo. Visitors were not allowed, but it was Christmas and no one was around, so I snuck in. His small, helpless body—wrapped in bandages and sheets—had tubes and wires coming out of everywhere; his face was swollen and disfigured. I wasn't sure if he knew I was there—he could not speak, eat, drink, or move—or if he was even conscious. In the chaos of the events, I had nearly forgotten that I had sent each of my students home with a Christmas card.
Everything about him was changing, it seemed—his attitude, his interactions—he was like a different person. When the Christmas vacation bell rang, we hurried home to celebrate with our families and friends. It was just something I had done at the last moment, and in Lorenzo's card, I think I made mention of how instrumental he had been with the Christmas door project.