For three years of middle school, my life was filled with anxiety so strong it was like the bubonic plague. Everywhere I turned, it seemed as though the world was dark and cold. Whereas I was jumping to start my day as a child, now I was dragging myself out of bed. I was sharing my brain with a new roommate: depression. Then I met a teacher who taught me lessons that I would use outside of the classroom, not just inside.
Daw Daw, or rather Mrs. Dawson, is the epitome of happiness. She has an aura of love that coaxes students into speaking and being friendly. This aura is drawn around her short but strong stature.
The first day of Mrs. Dawson’s class was uneventful, filled with information and sheets our parents needed to sign. But nevertheless, the way that she spoke – so poetically and assertively – caught my attention. How did she have such poetic grace yet still be forceful enough to persuade students to listen?
As the year dragged on and it seemed as though high school was just going to be the fourth book to a badly written horror story, I started to learn poetry. It seemed to creep into my life slowly but sincerely. I started to use it as an escape, where I could go when the world seemed not to want me. I would use the lines and spaces on the page to create a new world where I could feel safe and loved. Mrs. Dawson started me down this path without even trying.
“All right, class, who would like to be the first to share today?” was the opening to a new novel in my life. Of course, as it was the first week of school and my classmates were clueless, no one raised their hand. “I guess I’m going to have to pick a volunteer. How about you in the back?”
I looked up for a split second to notice that “you in the back” was a student who was always extremely introverted and quiet. That student was me.
“Well, I don’t think mine is that good, but, um, here we go: Wrestling is my life and holds me together. An escape from the world, I find this on the mat. Dancing an elaborate dance around the battle circle. Evading my opponent until the time is just right.”
“Thank you! For your first poem in my class, I think that is wonderful! Next?” This was just the beginning of a year filled with new ideas and the sprouting of a root of hope in my life. Throughout the year, we wrote more and more. I started to talk more. The introverted kid who sat in the back and never spoke began to stand up in the front of the class and read his poetry. I started to gain confidence. Mrs. Dawson gave me the fresh start I needed to become the poet I am today. She introduced me to the world of spoken word, something that takes up the biggest chunk of my life now.
One day she said to me, “I’ve noticed how much you enjoy reading your poetry to the class. Have you ever considered spoken word?”
“I have no idea what that is,” I replied.
“I’d like you to join our poetry slam in April. I think it would be a good experience for you.”
This was the last time I spoke to Daw Daw as an on-paper poet. The world she introduced me to opened up before me like a fresh new phone out of the box. The small acts of kindness she displayed in class and her beautiful soul brought out the social butterfly within me and countless others in her years of teaching.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.