NaPoWriMo Day 14: To Tyler and Any Teacher Who Lost A Student / by Shanelle Gabriel

Tyler's tongue lay blank in his mouth

Lips crisscrossed

This was a mock job interview

And he was lost

More silent than he's ever been

Face devoid of his usual wide grin


He'd answered what his weaknesses were

To a T

But like many kids of color we see

Used to the world filling him with what was wrong with him

So when asked what's right

They stay empty

I later asked the class

To lend words to his throat

Only to have a chorus speak

"His honesty"

"He's great with analogies"

"He challenges popular opinion."

He smiles as he listens

As if he couldn't have imagined

So many good things said about him

From anyone other than the woman who

Gave birth to him

I spent most of my time

Defending his self esteem

From his screaming insecurities

It seemed everyone deemed him leader

But him

Scared to plan for the future

Afraid to desire more from himself

Because it would mean

Admitting he was worthy of dreams

He was 19

Took him 6 weeks to agree to a GED

Goal setting wasn't easy

Repeatedly Pleading for positive thinking

Telling him the image he sees in the mirror

Can be misleading

I wanted to protect his future

Told him keep dreaming

Told him work hard and it'll come true

Told him if he pushes against the storm

Guarantee he'll get through

And even if he didn't succeed with me

His flash smile and firecracker personality

Will grant him boundless opportunities...


I found out he was gunned down

In Flatbush the other day

He was 20

The will quicker call him man

Rather than potential 

Barely a few chips on his life's stone

Still had a long way to go

To chisel himself statue

Still a baby of a human

Cn't help feel like I sold him

A fairytale

That one day everything would be okay

That life was promised to him

That he should walk by faith

I wonder if we educators

Are making the mistake

Of thinking that if we just pray

Over the bowed heads

As they labor over the tests they take

That their futures will be safe

Are we fooling ourselves

Thinking out words make

Our kids bulletproof

That our visions for them can provide roofs

Over their torn families

That we can love their broken hearts whole

Or speak a shining into their coal

And turn their struggling souls into gold...

I know I am no Savior

Teachers are meant to be road signs

Not the road itself

And Tyler,

You were on the edge of your path

I will always wonder if I could have helped

Change the cards you were dealt

If I did all that I could do

To let you know that you were beautiful

If I gave you enough proof

Of your brilliance

If I spoke enough truth

To show how you sparkled

I wonder who would you be

What would have been your testimony

To the young kids under you

If the system initially

Didn't fail you

I wonder was it we that

Truly failed you?