Saturday, March 12, 2011


One day in class I was "teaching" my students how NOT to use detail in their examples. How to NOT tell us that "I felt like I was about to vomit the pizza I ate for dinner," that "they had to drain all the juices from the appendix in my stomach," that "I was so shocked I fell to the floor writhing in anguish so hard I couldn't get up," that "my heart sank so low it felt like he had jammed his fist in my chest and pulled it right out." (These are from real papers.)

One of my students, easily one of the best writers in the class, laughs heartily when I go over these lessons in class and recite the silly examples of what not to do. Such phrases as above would never land on one of his pages. This student also happens to be my hair stylist who has  returned to school full time. Last week, a couple of days after the above lesson, as he magically swirled his razor through my hair, we chitchatted.

He told me about his trip to Israel and described how moved he was by traveling there, talking with the people, through the North, down the seaside through Tel Aviv and to Jerusalem where the three major religions meet (one without a temple, I might add). He loved it there so much he began to study the Hebrew language. His teacher, impressed with his speed in learning this most difficult language (which doesn't surprise me at all), told him he must have a Jewish soul. "And I do," he told me. He said he didn't want to come back to the U.S. after being in Israel and his heart was still there to this day. He felt like someone had ripped his heart right out and it was still there.

I laughed and immediately felt like a heel, because I think he thought, and still does think, I was laughing at his figure of speech because of that lesson in class that day and because that's what I do as an English teacher. Also it's difficult for me to express myself about such things while worried about whether or not I'm going to like my hair this time around. So I laughed.

"Well, haven't you ever felt like that?" he asked me, "Like you've been somewhere sometime and you left your heart there? Just didn't want to leave?"
All I could say at the time was, "Yes, of course I've felt like that!" What I wanted to say, and didn't, was this:

"You don't know how much I understand. I, also, have a Jewish soul, though I've never visited Israel. However, I often visit Israel in Los Angeles. It's my spiritual home. I celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Passover and other windows of God's time every year with countless friends there."

"The people who have taught me the most of late are my teachers and the Rabbis at the Center where I visit. What I've learned from them has healed me from physical pain so that I can teach again.

That's what I meant when I laughed unbelievingly and couldn't say a word sitting in that chair, not what really came out of my mouth.

Today just before I wrote this, I pulled a little red string, a symbol of my own Jewish soul, out from under my watch band into plain sight on my wrist. It will not hide there again.

How could I, a Christian, one who loves Jesus, say these things? In this small town of Reedley, where my Grandfather built the giant church in the center of town (which I refer to in my very first blog), how could I NOT say these things? How might anyone who completely understands what Jewishness is and what Jesus is not say what these things? For myself, I say it in public now for the first time. And I learn much from my students.


I'm back! profoundly mortified that my students have discovered my blog. Of Co-ourse! Did I think they wouldn't? Procrastinator that I am, I disobeyed reoccuring, nagging thoughts that I should obliterate it from the web after my last blog.

They approach me shyly with self-deprecating, hopeful smiles. "I read your blog, Mrs. Krause. Are you going to write any more?" "I loved your stories. Let me know when you write something else." One audacious student cut and pasted part of one of my blogs and emailed it to me with the comment, "Wow, that's very powerful writing!" No matter, I always give them the curtest answer and change the subject.

What's wrong with that picture? What's wrong (maybe what's right) is that it's humbling to be under the same scrutiny from them that they they are under from me. I should be above that, shouldn't I? I've always thought so. (God! I hate admitting that.) What's wrong, also, is that I always thought I couldn't write when I taught. One process blocks the other. I thought. Also, that's what everyone told me.

I'm a proud person. And I should be. I write. I teach. I have a graduate degree. Whew! What baggage. What a blockage to the creative flow! Something's breaking though. Chink! Chink! Must be I'm just getting old! That's it. I'm too old to teach. I've gone back to teaching after a hiatus, too old to teach! I used to be right all the time. Now I find myself learning more from my students than they could ever hope to learn from me! And I've begun to write again.