In the Trenches

In the Trenches was a writing prompt given to me during the Evanston leg of the WWP. The prompt was, “Think of the moment in your classroom–happy or sad–that made every struggle you’d had as a teacher worth it.”


Students used to come into my room all the time to talk about nerdy things. The first The Force Awakens trailer. The new season of The Flash. The disaster that was Batman V Superman.

We dissected and close read movie trailers, posters, and scenes. We discussed character development and motivation. We discovered that Guardians of the Galaxy has superb foreshadowing.

I went to see Captain America: Civil War in theaters and on my way out, I ran into a gaggle of students. Excited, they wanted to talk about the movie, but I told them we had to wait until school the following week (if only because I really had to go to the bathroom…) I had eleven kids in my classroom at 7:40 on a Monday morning, ready to discuss. That was the day we learned about red herrings and dove into the intricacies of plotting.

There was a constant rotation through the group of books, movies, games, and graphic novels. One student gave me a reprint of Batman Issue #1, which sparked a heated and eventually evidence-supported debate on who was the best superhero. Spoiler Alert: It’s Batman.

My little Nerd Club lost their minds when they saw my collection of movie posters, acquired during my high school job at the Buffalo Theater, and I will never forget the looks on their faces when they realized I played Xbox.

I had a line of figurines on my desk. They were nothing more than toys, really, and I had everyone from a dollar-store dinosaur named Greg to Peter Parker, Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider Plant. I called them my teaching squad, a cheap line-up of moral support and a plastic trick to get students to talk to me.

After a particularly tough day at school, two members of the Nerd Club showed up my house with the newest member of my teaching squad, a small Two-Face figurine. They also brought an umbrella plant and a note that said, “We’re glad you’re in Saratoga.”

And when I got a new job and moved away, the 17 year old boy who was not in Nerd Club, who thought comic books were stupid, who only cared about cars and basketball, who I made love Macbeth through sheer force of will, gave me a dancing Baby Groot to line up with my teaching squad and said, “Thanks for being my teacher.”

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My nerd club taught me that while I hated my job, I did not hate teaching.

They taught me that every story has a potential lesson hidden inside it.

They taught me that the real teaching squad is the community you build around yourself. That could be a writing group, other teachers, or your family. For me it was Nerd Club.

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