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The Hiding of Dreams

The Hiding of Dreams

She was the rudest, angriest, most disruptive student I ever taught. Several times during the year I tried to expel her from class. Finally, her Counselor called me into his office. "Close the door. I will tell you about Martha." The story of her upbringing and family life was awful. It was hard to believe a child could survive the beatings, deprivation and abuse she had suffered. The Counselor told me, "I've learned one thing in 25 years of this job�the kids who misbehave the most are the ones whose life wounds are the deepest. They are like optical illusions. Look at them one way and all you see is a rude kid. Look another way and all you see is pain." When I took over this classroom 9 years ago one of the previous teachers left a Mystery�thousands and thousands of small pieces of paper, all cut to 2 by 3 inches. I spent weeks throwing these papers out. One day, during 1st semester, I stood by the door at dismissal & handed each student a handful of paper. "What's this for?" I said, "Take them home. Write a secret wish on each one. Hide them. You'll find them in a few years and your wishes will have come true." I did this for days. At the end of 2nd semester a student asked, "Mr. Baltz, what was with that paper stuff last semester?" I laughed, "Oh, it was just a joke." Martha suddenly stopped at the door as everyone left. "A joke?," she asked, "Just a joke?" "Well, Martha...what I meant..." "It was all just a joke to you, Mr. Baltz?" She reached into her pockets & pulled out dozens of little pieces of paper. "These are just jokes?" Pocket after pocket was emptied as she threw them on the floor. She reached into her purse, grabbed a last handful, and looked at me with the angriest of eyes. She threw them in my face, shouting, "WELL, HERE'S YOUR JOKE!" After she left, I picked up the little pieces of paper and read her Secret Wishes�"Make new friends," "Study better," "Don't be so angry," "Forgive yourself," "Go to college," "Fall in love with someone---anyone." I never saw her again.

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