Friday, April 22, 2016

A Lesson in Poetry

Over the past few years, I have been the parent of a very angry, very hurt, very sad young lady.  Our personal life had a few bumps that caused some emotional angst in the tender heart of this sweet girl.  School was a nightmare.  She was constantly picked on for her academic and physical differences.  She tried so hard to stay positive and remain a source of joy for others.  In the midst of her pain, she still shone brightly.  She was supported by family, friends, and a church that loved her.  I made sure she was being taken care of physically, spiritually, and mentally.  I spent a lot of time at her school working with wonderful adults who cared for my girl, but who were working with so many other parents who didn’t care about their kids or dealing with the lack of resources to fully accommodate the learning delays.  I made sure she was in consistent counseling with a fantastic counselor.  I kept her surrounded by people who built her up.  But, I couldn’t find that “thing” that fired her up and brought her confidence.  We spent (and still spend) a great deal of time talking about how God made Cecely special, with a purpose, and with an amazing heart.  We know the REAL strength does not come from her or from me.  We believe in the strength that comes from a personal relationship with our Creator and Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ.  Even though we work hard in our spiritual disciplines, I still was praying for a healthy outlet for my beautifully mixed-up baby girl.

With middle school fast-approaching, I began to look into academic options for my girl.  I talked with her Daddy and her almost Step-Dad.  We agreed to fill out an application for a charter school that we knew was not traditional, but we also knew had great benefits for our girl.  The process includes a lottery system that chooses which children can attend.  This is done to keep class sizes small…which is a good fit for all kiddos.  We knew if she wasn’t accepted to this school, we would figure out a way for her to be successful in public middle school.  My almost-husband, my family, my friends, and I turned it all over to God.  I needed to know that my young lady would be exactly where she was supposed to be.

The day I got the call that Cecely had won the lottery to attend the incredible Francine Delany New School for Children, I lost it.  I cried.  I rejoiced.  I thanked God.  I called Cecely’s Daddy, Mark,  and her almost-Step-Daddy, Brian, and told them the great news.  I was out running errands for work with my great friend, Samantha…we dropped everything and drove to Cecely’s school.  We signed her out early and told her the good news.  Oh, I wish that moment had been recorded.  Her face lit up!

Every school has issues—I know this.  I have many years of experience both as the child of an educator and in the classroom.  No matter what, a school is not perfect.  I will tell you right now with all that is in me, I believe the positives of this school far out-weigh the negatives.  The small class size is an excellent benefit and allows for Cecely to receive so much academic attention.  The no-bullying policy is actually acted upon.  Here’s the deal, a charter school is a privilege not a given.  If a child is a repeat-offender bully, they can be made to leave the school.   She is safe and that makes a huge difference in her attitude.  It is rare to hear Cecely say she doesn’t want to get up for school—if she does, it’s simply because she wants to sleep in.  The social justice focus of this school is incredible…it ensures that Cecely can be Cecely, and all of the things that make up Cecely.  She is safe to be a vocal Christian, she is encouraged to explore, she is challenged, she is given incredible learning opportunities.  Not only is she safe to be who she is, she is in a wonderful environment that teaches her how to learn and laugh with people who believe differently than we do.  Look at the news; we live in a messed up world.  What is happening in these classrooms are conversations about what’s going on in the world.  These kiddos are learning how to talk and listen and share ideas.  My girl is not growing up in a bubble, and when she goes out into the real world, she will know how to defend her beliefs, how to stand up for others and herself, how to respect others, and how to make a difference in this world.

In this school, Cecely has been blessed with exceptional educators!  I can’t say enough good things about everyone from those who take care of the behind the scenes work, who run the office, who keep the school clean and running, who share their talents with the students, who offer extra support academically and emotionally.  The teachers are superb.  They truly love to teach.  They truly care about the children they teach.  One such teacher, Robyn, introduced Cecely to the world of poetry.  She joined the Writer’s Club.  She began reading more.  And, she began to write, to share, to grieve, to spread joy…thanks to Robyn, Cecely had found her “thing”.  It has changed the perspective of my girl.  She has a skill now to get her feelings out in a healthy way.

Today, was a life-changing moment in Cecely’s life and honestly, in my life.  Cecely participated in the poetry slam at her school.  She had written her poem and had been practicing at school, after school, and at home; however, I was never allowed to hear the practice.  Now, being a Mama who wants to protect my baby (and who may have slight control issues) it was killing me that Cecely wouldn’t let me help her with this poem.  I was not at all prepared to hear her.  As I have said, Cecely is blessed with a huge support system.  As I sat in the audience alongside my brother Timothy, Cecely’s youth leader Susie, our sweet friend Samantha, and my awesome son Titus, I melted in a surge of tears as I listened to Cecely share her poem…no, share her heart.  She didn’t stumble.  She spoke clearly and confidently.  This was not the little girl suffering from heartache and scared of bullies.  This was a young woman who was shining in her element.  Truly, all of the poets were simply amazing…they expressed things on topics that adults struggle with daily.  These students are poetic rock stars!  Not only are they talented, they are encouragers!  I was overwhelmed to hear the "snaps" of affirmation the students shared with each other.  There were a few places in Cecely's poem where the audio on the recording sounds like a rain storm because of all the snapping!

Victory for two!
In case you are new to poetry slams (I’m still learning), each poet and their work is judged, points are calculated, and the winner is revealed at the end of the slam.  There was a moment when I glanced over at Robyn on the other side of the room and she wiggled her eyebrows at me.  Listen, I’m smart, but I was so emotionally involved in every child’s poem that I was basically a crying mess of mascara and mucus.  Thankfully my brain kicked back in, and I got my camera ready…Cecely tied for 1st place!!!  Can you believe it?!?  I can!  It is mind-blowing to see the differences in a child who is loved at home, who is encouraged at school, and who feels and knows she is supported by peers and grown-ups.  The young lady she tied with is an 8th grade poet.  In a competition with a veteran and a rookie, it would have been completely understandable for the 8th grader to be resentful.  When the results were read, the girls looked at each other, shared a high-five and a laugh, then the wonderful older student took Cecely's hand and they walked up to the mic together.  What grace and poise!  What I would give for every child to know that love and support from the people in their lives!

Yes, this is a boastful post to brag on my beautiful baby.  More than that, this is a message to encourage you to be you.  Be who God created you to be.  Be brave enough to fulfill the purpose that only you can!  Cut out the people who are hurting you, who are pulling you down.  If you can’t cut them out, get help to deal with them.  Surround yourself with people who love you, who build you up, who take delight in being in your presence.  AND be that person who lifts up.  Be the one who shares joy and love.  Be bold!  Be courageous!  Be joy!  Be YOU!

Finally, here is a copy of the poem Cecely shared today…be encouraged, my friends!  (P.S. I am a fan of grammar and punctuation, but I am learning that poetry doesn’t have to fit the rules that I was graded on in school.  So, to honor the artist, I am leaving the format exactly as she wrote it).

Why does everyone have to have a label  
like the popular, the nerds, goth, cheerleaders, jock, and of course the geeks

I don’t know what people consider me as but why can’t people just be people be them

I want to be a poet I want to write poetry I want to speak clearly like a “average kid” cause I can’t speak  the way an “average kid”  and I learned that I don’t need to be like everyone else I can be myself cause that is how the good Lord made me

That is one of my goals in life I don’t care if I don’t need talk like a “average kid”

people might think of me as a kid with disability that  has CP that can’t talk like everyone else or have just a little trouble with her left arm or is really shaky I try to tell people that I can’t help it and trust me if I could I would some sometimes I wish that I didn’t have a disability so I could fit in so I can feel how it is to be a kid without a disability  `

I don’t care I don’t care at all I will just do what everyone who has ever loved me in my life “Don’t give up” and you know what I will never give up and I hope everyone no matter if you have a disability or not

we don’t need people to give us a label we should just be us we need different people to do different things
I want to be me you want to be you
You can be the girl over there but why don’t you want to be yourself

You and me can make a difference in this world I want to make my mark on this world I look where the greatest people have stand and I want to be apart of history I want to be known for something more than just a kid that lived on this earth a long time ago 
The Cecely Fan Club--Uncle Tim, Titus, Mom, Susie, Samantha, Aunt Britney...oh, and the poet!