Forced Survival Stitch

By Chloé Avila

I remember my grandmother teaching me
How to sew. 
It never made sense. 
I never had the hands. 

But I always had the hands
For teaching. 

I was taught how 
To thread the perfect lesson
Crafting the hook
Circling and looping down to the closure. 

But no one taught
Me what a lesson
Would look like 
When you are thrown into the deep end
Of distance and learning. 
“Distance” and “Learning”
Being forced into the same sentence

I was taught the laws and procedures of protecting 
I know my responsibilities are large. 

But no one taught me 
How to stitch back together
A student’s heart
After they watch their father die
Or hear their father brutalize them 
Sometimes with words
Others with hands. 

No one taught me 
What to do when 
My teacher heart
Gets ripped open and is the most vulnerable
It’s ever been. 
How can I feel pride and joy
That a student has found the courage to put their story on paper
AND share it, with me? 
All while feeling pain, sorrow, ache, and scared 
At what they have faced. 

How do I stitch with distance and learning 
In the same sentence? 
Can someone please teach me 
These stitching techniques? 

Chloé Avila is a secondary language arts teacher at the Woodburn Academy of Art, Science, and Technology in Oregon’s Woodburn School District.