I’ve been debating whether or not to rate this part of my life. I tend to shy away from negative ratings in general, and often anything of a more serious nature. It’s easy to rate bad things that involve humor, dog poop, or failed attempts at new meals. Death is not something I ever hoped to deal with, although I recognized it would happen at some point, and definitely something I hoped to never rate.
Yet these past two weeks have been full of my attempts to cope, understand, support and grieve. Perhaps writing down some of those thoughts might be part of the process in attempting to recover and move forward.
Last Tuesday morning I woke up to several missed calls from my Dean of Instruction, at 1am, and then again at 3am. This is not usual. Oddly enough I leave my phone on almost every night in case of an emergency, and this was the one night where I turned it to silent in hopes of some real sleep. I called her back immediately and received news I was not expecting, and was definitely not prepared for. Javaris, one of my students, and am amazing member of the Pride of 2012, had died the night before while playing basketball at his church.
I’ve known Javaris since he was 12 years old, a much smaller middle-schooler with a much larger ‘fro.
In 7th grade he cut the hair, but never lost the smile.
Coming back to Gaston to teach Javaris for the third year, now as a big, not-so-bad 11th grader, found him taller, a little bit better at chess, and just as loved as before. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a single person with anything but positive memories of Javaris.
And that’s the thing that’s difficult to explain to those who never knew him. I always think to myself when reading obituaries (which is not all that often), whether or not every single person was really that wonderful. We all run into jerks in our everyday lives, yet none of them ever seem to die. Once you’re dead, you immediately become the most incredible person everyone knows. When reading Javaris’s obituary, I wished people could understand that every word of it was lived by him on a daily basis.
Walking into my classroom on Tuesday morning was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my three years of teaching. I’ve never lost someone close to me, and definitely not someone who is such an important part of my daily life. Keeping it together when walking into 2nd period, with a way-to-obviously empty desk in the front right corner, was impossible. Handing back papers and getting to Javaris’s quiz from the day before made it even more real. There was no way to hide the grief that everyone in the Pride of 2012, and the school, was feeling. Where in the teacher’s manual and training do they help you understand what to do in situations like this? TFA, where was this during our Institute training?
Thankfully, the support of such a loving, strong community got everyone through an incredibly difficult week, and the funeral left us all with some feelings of closure. At least until Monday morning when he still wasn’t there.
We miss you Javaris. A lot. But I am inspired by the feelings of love and caring that you have encouraged both in your time spent at KIPP Pride High, but also in your memory. There is a slight shift in the energy of the school, and I know the that shift is because of you. And for that, I rate this experience a 2.
The pain and loss have been difficult, as Javaris’s presence is constantly missed, but I know there are some positive things coming from this experience. And for a while, I’d prefer to focus on those.
So until the Teacher vs. Student basketball game in his memory (where we will inevitably kick some student butt), I’ll be looking, and living, for the tens.