The Joy in the Unexpected

By Daemond Arrindell, WITS Writer-in-Residence

Today was a tiring day. But to be fair, every day that I teach is a tiring day – not just because of the teaching (or the kids) and not just because of the medium I teach. I’m thinking specifically about how I’m almost always a visitor in the classroom. This comes with a lot of perks, as most teachers tell me – I say alot of the same things that they tell their students (in the same way that a lot of teachers say the same things that their students’ parents say), but coming from my mouth it suddenly sounds different, and the kids actually hear it. I’m new, fresh, and different from the face that they see day in and day out in front of the classroom. The downside is not getting to go past being a visitor and develop a long-term connection. What I mean is that I DO get to hear about some of the hardships the students face, but rarely about the outcome.

But, in every residency I also get surprised in the best ways: the quiet kid who has a fire in his belly and his pen is straight up flamethrower; the class clown who finally manages to sit still and write a few lines that take the breath away from even her teacher; or the student who’s been yelling at me, “I can’t,” for two months and chooses one day to channel that frustration onto the page. I love it when I see a jumble of doodles and drawings and ramblings on the page and then somewhere in the middle there are lines like these, hiding:

“When I look at this picture I see death, I see souls escaping from their eternal prison, I see the worst form of emotion, but the emotion that makes us human”

“You are the one that turns blue to fiery red, you are the rage of balloons that pop…and when you leave and all the damage is done, your little puppet wants to cut off its bloody hands”

“You hang your victims on a thread of happiness, hypnotise the loved ones and attack who is already yours”

And then, my favorite surprises are the left turns of a student taking a writing activity into a totally different direction than you ever expected. The focus for one of my recent lessons for high school students was rhyme and rhythm and was meant to be fun and playful. Virtually all of the students followed suit, save for one. A typically soft spoken young woman in my sophomore class used the format to create a rallying cry that would be perfect at just about any march or protest for civil rights. Her classmates fell to a rare silence when I read her words aloud:

They said he stole and justify that

On why he was robbed of

His life

Fight fight fight

Until we get it

Right right right

She was asleep as they invaded her

House, a child, dead before she

Was alive

Fight fight fight

Until we get it

Right right right

He was twelve, playing with a toy

Gun. But that didn’t matter. Dead.

Shot. Without warning.

Fight fight fight

Until we get it

Right right right

I can’t breathe, he said

as he gasped for air but

he wasn’t let out of the death

hold. Dead. No justice.

Fight fight fight

Until we get it

Right right right

He was armed. Armed with

Arizona and skittles.

That was enough for him to be followed

And killed.

Fight fight fight

Until we get it

Right right right

RIP Tamar Rice

RIP Eric Garner

RIP Mike Brown

RIP Trayvon Martin

RIP to who’s next

Fight fight fight

Until we get it

Right right right

Welcome to America

Liberty and justice for some

The scales always tipping in

the oppressors favor.

Fight fight fight

Until we get it

Right right right

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