I can’t remember the circumstances of that visit with my former history teacher. Maybe I was collecting makeup work for my brother, Chet, who was in her class at the time. Or maybe I just stopped in to say “Hello.” My high school teachers felt a little like my extended family to me, especially now that my father had died, and I only had one parent left, a very dedicated, overworked and probably exhausted parent. Talking with my teachers gave me other adult perspectives on the angst, drama and isolation of adolescence.
I only remember one comment from that conversation with my history teacher. She said, “Your brother is not the student you were, Kristen.” She probably meant it as a compliment to me. She may have regretted the comment the instant she said it. I just remember feeling taken aback, annoyed with both of them, embarrassed, and a little sorry for him, as I made my exit.
In a way, she was right. Chet was not the student I was. I read anything literary, while my brother disliked a lot of his assigned reading. Without Chet, I would have failed geometry, algebra and trigonometry, because he understood math in a way I never would and was able to explain it. Now that we’ve grown, I am a teacher, and he is a computer programmer. We are different people!
I teach English to sixteen adolescent students at the West Virginia School for the Blind, and I constantly worry about what to say and when to say it, how much of my personal life my kids should know, what the boundaries are and whether it’s ok to change them depending on the individual student. My blindness further complicates the issue, because some of the kids look to me in a way they don’t to their sighted teachers to find out what the possibilities are for their own lives. Teachers are human beings. Sometimes, they say things they wish they hadn’t, while at other times, they wish they had said and done more to save “their kids” who must confront life, in all of its complexity, with varying levels of family support.
I gave The Transcriber to some of my students, and I showed it to just about all of them. Cameron and Patrick thought it was cool that I wrote a published book. DaShawn read my chapter about signs and chuckled. Jamie begged for a copy of the book for her birthday, which also happens to be Valentine’s Day, and after she read it, she carried it around in her purse for luck. Jamie and Skylor read the book in print; Sabrina read it audibly, (I read it aloud for her). Eddie and Delilah read it electronically in Braille on a small computer called a BrailleNote Apex. Sabrina wrote in her book report that this was the first time she had a teacher who was also an author. Delilah said the book was “awesome,” even though she was nervous that Louis cursed a few times. Eddie said he read the book twice, and he told me that even though he is the blind child in his family while the character, Louis, is sighted, he could still relate to Louis’s parental and sibling struggles.
My two seventh grade boys, Caleb and Lucas, were full of admiration and curiosity when I presented my book to them. They asked me:
“How much money did it cost to make that book?” I didn’t go into the amount of debt my mother and I are still paying for my graduate education, or the costs to my publisher, Gemmamedia, but I told them that a writer must write for a long time, and maybe someday a publisher will think an idea you have is great and will pay you for it and, more importantly, put it out there for anyone in the world to read.
“How long did it take to write your book?” The book took me about six years or so to write, off and on, while I struggled to write a longer book which is still looking for a home. Then again, maybe it took my entire life.
“Will you write a horror book for us next time?” I can barely read horror books without freaking out, so unfortunately, no.
“Can you help me publish a book?” I can give you the time and space to write a story. I wish I could help you with your whole life’s journey, but that journey may eventually become a book.
“Could you write our names in your next book, because we asked you to keep writing books?” I hope there will be a next book, but for now, acknowledging my brother, my teachers and my students in my blog entry seems appropriate. So thank you, Chet, for being your own person. Thanks to all of my teachers, who took me under their wings in their own unique ways. Thank you: Cameron, Patrick, Skylor, DaShawn, Jamie, Sabrina, Eddie, Delilah, Caleb and Lucas for your cheers for the new author! And thank you all: Daniel, Patrick, Sabrina, Cameron, Eddie, Jamie, Matt, Caleb, Delilah, Lucas, DaShawn, Tyler, Beth Anne, Cynthia, Katrina and Skylor, for sharing your lives with me!