Camille is taller than most girls at school, with a dark-eyed stare that tends to drift to a corner of the room, not quite out the window, but not wholly focused on the teacher either. She identified herself early on as a writer, and since then has slipped me a few notes inscribed with passionate love poetry, ‘beautiful little words’, as she calls them. I hope that she’ll post her poems on the blog that we’re setting up for the students.
When we go outside to play theater games, I half expect Camille to drift away from the action, but she trudges over to the circle, her arms linked with those of two other girls in a familiar sign of middle school female solidarity. Except Camille is close to seventeen or eighteen – like most kids at school, she’s a confusing mix of maturity (an intricate tattoo snakes up her left side) and youthfulness (unabashedly playing games during her lunch period). She is likely from a tumultuous background, but the signs of cynicism I’ve been trained by experience to apprehend don’t readily show in her face.
I might be particularly drawn to Camille because I recognize my own abstracted classroom presence in her preoccupied gaze, but it’s a luxury to have the time to get to know all of these students over the course of two months. It’s a privilege to which I’m unaccustomed – when I teach Community Health Educator workshops in New Haven, I only get to meet the students one time, for a forty-five minute classroom period. As we reach the three-week mark, I’m already getting nervous that two months won’t be enough. For the time that I’m here, though, I’m going to do all I can to make sure Camille keeps writing.