top of page

When The One Walks In


When she walked into the glassed-in room, we both looked a little lost. We both expected something else from the day. Our first meeting was awkward. I presumed her age, and I got it wrong.

Her mom spoke first, "Is this the journal writing class?"

Monica, the librarian, and I simultaneously acknowledged it was. I could see from their view point it was misleading. There were two adults and no teens in the room. The paper sign taped on the glass door was the only clue of what might be happening in the room.

She, I will call her Emily, looked at her mom quizzically. Her mom nodded, and pointed that she would be waiting just outside at one of the library tables. As Emily gingerly made her way to the long white table near Monica and I, I mentally scrambled about what to do.


Six months ago, I took on a new career. I became a teacher of journal writing classes. The delight at reading the words adjunct professor on my contract were indescribable. This was a fork in the road, I never expected, yet at every juncture I was having a blast. That was until the library asked if I would teach a class for teens.

I knew my material well enough to launch it for adults. Teens were another question. I batted around different ideas, finally settling on the Heroes Journey. Setting the students as the protagonists. The journals were their records and road maps.

That was all lovely until a young bespeckled girl with braces, the size of a twelve-year-old sat before me. Suddenly my slide show and catchy prompts seemed out of place. As if she read my thoughts, Emily muttered, "I don't want to do journals. I write."

"What do you write?" Monica asked, likely sensing my mental train tracks switching inside me.

"Poetry." Came Emily's whispered reply.

Still grappling for direction, I asked, "Do you want work on yours?"

Emily nodded, and a flicker of her first smile rose on her face. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out her laptop. It looked a little worse for wear. Monica helped Emily log into the library Wi-Fi. Sitting across the table from both gave me a front row seat to the vastness of life. Monica's poise and wisdom as a librarian was impressive. Her ability to navigate needs before they arose, awed me. As for Emily there was a distant curiosity, as if she knew what her truest inner desires were, but she advanced cautiously out of self-preservation.

With all the necessary technology running. Our class began. I invited her to share any of her poems, as I don't write poetry, I hoped listening would give me a road map. Emily began quietly reading, watching our faces. It a rough piece. Emily would stop and explain the stanzas after each section. Suddenly, Monica said, a bit aghast, "Does that say 250 pages?"

Emily nodded, she was unfazed.

Monica and I looked at each other, we had work to do. The rest of the hour was spent coaching Emily through this 250-page saga. As our hour ended, we suggested to Emily that she could add a stanza to the libraries community poem before she left. She gave us a gentle nod.

While we were cleaning up, I asked Monica if we were holding class next week. She proposed we come prepared for both classes, the Teen Journal class and Emily's. Over the next two Saturdays, Emily was the only student. She had our 100% attention.

"I wrote more last week." she said, as she unpacked her book bag on the second Saturday. "There's a man on the boat with her. The flying things are coming, too." A fresh sense of delight illuminated her. She was still introvert and quiet, but her light chatter was a change from the week before.

Monica, the ever-present librarian, had collected a few books of narrative poetry to use as samples. Throughout the hour we worked on everything from syntax to pace and spelling. The more we worked the more she chatted.

"How do you know when to start a new section?"

"How can I explain this?"

This week I sat on her side of the table. I gave her suggestions for laying out a rough draft, changing font colors for areas to work on, and so forth. Her quietness gave way to questions for Monica and I about our writing. The hour flew quickly. As she left, she said, "See you next week."

On our final week, a more extroverted Emily showed up. As she piled her materials on the table, she announced, "I like this. No one ever asks or listens to my stories." With no nudging or pre-amble she started telling us her updates. Her hidden enthusiasm was oozing out.

The Lesson

I confess, I only half heard Emily as she talked. A series of reflections were running wild in my own head. For the past three weeks, I thought I was teaching her. Now as I observed her, I realized she taught me.

Through her visits I recalled the teachers, mentors, coaches, and family who helped me in the various areas and phases of my life. I remembered being the one who needed guidance, encouragement, and support. What I hadn't seen before, was the impact my needing them, had on their lives.

Without me (or any of us who seek for help in our development) they, the teachers, mentors, family, and coaches, would not have learned lessons they needed. They would not have been fulfilled without me. Introverted, awkward teen Emily taught me that both the student and the teacher need each other. Not because the teacher knows more, but because the teacher is not fulfilled until they have a student.

We ran over time in our little library class that day. We listened to a young girl share her dreams with us. I had chocolate in my backpack for the adult class I teach. I broke it out to share amongst us while Emily soared with hope in herself. At the same time, I soared as I cherished the gifts of wisdom Emily gave me.

Your Turn - Journal Prompt

Because I believe all our stories are important, my journal prompt for you is

"Who were the ones in your life?"

Take 5 minutes minimum, and list when you were the one, and when others were the one. For as the adage goes,

11 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


The best gift a teacher can be given is the aha moment when a student's face lights up and shouts, "I get it! "and seeing sheer joy in their meeting a challenge head on. Good to be both teacher and pupil at any age. Hugs, Carrielynn.

Replying to

"The best gift a teacher can be given is the aha moment when a student's face lights up and shouts, "I get it! "and seeing sheer joy in their meeting a challenge head on."

As you are my favorite English teacher, I hope you saw a lot of aha moments. You gave us the best opportunities for them. I continue to be grateful for them.

Deep hugs to you, Mrs. Lilly.

bottom of page