It’s Alright to Cry

September 21, 2011

The fact that I know Rosey Grier sang this places my age in a certain category…

The school year has begun, which explains why I am simultaneously happy and exhausted.  Much time is spent in the first few weeks just learning the routines.  This time is well-spent, but it is sometimes a little tiring just practicing how to be a thoughtful student without actually getting to the “meat” of the curriculum.

Our first week of school, like much of the last part of the summer, was wet.  Day after day of rain reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s story “All Summer in a Day,” about a school on Venus where children are going to see the sun for the first time they can remember (it happens only every seven years).  It ends up being a story about the way children are and is sad.  If you haven’t read it, you can do an online search and find a pdf of it on various sites.

Having thought of this story, I decided that, despite the tight schedule, I was going to read this aloud to my language arts group.  I love to read aloud to any group, and it’s one of the things my advisee group is known for as the year goes on.

I read the story, and the students were enthralled, wrapped up in the rainy world and the prospect of sun.  We got to the end, and I choked up as usual.  One of my students asked, with some amazement, “Are you crying?”  I explained that I was a little teary, yes.  And one of my advisees said, “That happens a lot when she reads aloud,” and then, “Do you need a tissue?”  It was said with kindness and concern, and there was no derision in the fact that I do, in fact, often cry when I read.

This is due in part to the books I choose.  When I taught younger students, I cried every time at Charlotte’s Web, and cried when Mudge gets lost in one of the Henry and Mudge books.  When I taught middle school, I cried at Ruby Holler when one of the main characters rocks a doll in a way she herself never was.  I cried last year when we read The Giver, and I cry every year when I read the end of Elsewhere.  I am caught up in these characters and can’t help but cry.  My students are often shocked at first (and then wonder aloud if I’ve read the book before this moment), but they are sympathetic and grow to understand that this is what happens when I read, even if I’ve read the book every year for many years.

And while I do not cry to make a point, I think it’s a useful thing for my students to witness.  For one thing, it reinforces the idea that it’s okay to cry — that even adults cry.  More importantly, perhaps, is that the power of words can move us to the point of tears.  Students are familiar with the concept of crying in a movie, but it’s relatively novel for them to see someone crying at a book.  I hope that it inspires them to read something that truly moves them, and that they will feel comfortable crying if that’s how they feel.

In the meantime, I am thankful of the tissues, the cup of water, and the understanding nods that my students provide when, once again, I’m crying as I read to them.