Can’t You See Me?

The long knives are out for teachers caught in this pathetic reform … wedged in the middle of a mess they didn’t make.

The sad and bitter tales … about kids in homework-agony and testing misery … color lots of teachers unfairly. Tattooing them as grinding task-masters. Cold accomplices. Me-firsts. Bad guys.

They’re not. Not the teachers I know. They didn’t architect this mess.

So, I’d like to rub out that unfairness. And drop a reminder on you.

It’s a quick story that repeats itself in dozens of ways every day  … in schools across the country. Lots of variations. It’s a real-deal snapshot of the teachers I knew … and will forever recollect.

Hallmark is gonna hate me for this …


Valentine’s Day was a big deal in the high school where I taught. And, at first, I hated that day.

Yeah. I hated Valentine’s Day.

Some student-run club … I forgot which … raised money by selling $2 roses that would be delivered during second period of the day. All you had to do was place your order  … leave a quick note … and the words and flowers were dramatically delivered to classrooms around the school … on Valentine’s Day.

It was the worst kept secret of all time.

The high school lovelies loved it because … for them … it was a competition of the cool crowd to see who’d rack up the most flowers. It was the in-crowd equivalent of a beauty contest. A popularity pageant. They lived their lives in brilliant colors

But the unlovelies … the boyfriend-free, the never-dated, the never-been-kissed, the not-so-gorgeous yet … God, you could see the ache in their eyes. The “Why not me … for once?” ache. Worse than being left off a list for some school thing. Way worse. And they knew who they were.

They were the audience. The gallery. They lived their high school days in black and white.

Until some teacher cured that as best he could.

Behind the scenes, he’d order dozens of roses to be delivered … to the unseen, the undiscovered, the overlooked, the invisible, and the unkissed. Along with a Cyrano-note.

And the cards were filled with tender fortune-cookie  lies …  “Why haven’t YOU noticed me?” … and  … ”I wish I was less shy.” … and … ”One day I’ll find the courage … I promise.” … and …  “How long do I have to stare at you to catch your attention?”. Never signed, of course.

You get the idea.

Nothing smiled me more than to see those young ladies get their flowers … in front of all of the extra-lovely lovelies who expected such things. The beauty of the blush was so sweet … and the flower-clutch the best.

The Flower

I adored those “What do I do now?“ moments. The big eyes. The smile-smother.

I would see them later in the day …. on their cloud …  in the hallways … flower still in hand … walking as though they were queen for the whole damn day.

And they were. And they were extra-beautiful.

And I would say loud enough … to their bright blush … ”I am unsurprised. There is at least one young man in this pile of bricks with very fine taste.”

And they would smile so shyly-beautifully … and their eyes would dart … and they wouldn’t know what to say.  And I would move on … and let them over-heat a bit.

For a single day, they were unordinary … because someone saw them … and loved them.

It almost made me cry. Every year.

Denis Ian

One thought on “Can’t You See Me?

  1. That was so very lovely touching and hopeful …. There are teachers counselors coaches aides administrators et al who realize school is not just a place or a job but rather a field of dormant dreams where many bloom and prosper, but sadly too many others wither and die. Thank you for the encouraging word about those in school settings who appreciate the enormity of their task beyond the rotten indoctrination and ritualistic tasks that accompany such callous cold-heartedness surrounding them.


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