Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: The Power of a Book #SOL18
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Slice of Life: The Power of a Book #SOL18

Why would a mom leave?

He puts his pencil down and rests his hand over his notes.

Is that the question you are tracking? 

I notice the scratched out writing and ripped page of his notebook. I try again.

Is that what you were wondering as you read this book?

He waits and then slowly closes his notebook.

No.  That is what I am wondering in life.  Why would a mom leave? How can a mom just leave?


A tear slips down his cheek. He lets it roll off his face and onto his hand. I realize we are not talking about the character in his book.  I realize I do not have an answer to his question. We sit in silence. The tears continue.

You’re a mom.

I am.

You don’t know why a mom would leave.

He averts his eyes. The silence connects us somehow.

Barely audible he asks, Would you leave?


I allow myself to feel his question, the enormity of it, the pain behind, and the need for an answer.  I divert the energy I was expending to resist tears to find words, any words to respond.  The question rolls around in my head.  Why would a mom leave?  Why would a mom leave? I realize, at this moment, I too want to leave.  I realize this moment may be too big for me. I realize I could turn his question back to him and tell him it is a great question to think about.  I realize I could connect this back to the book and shift to teacher mode.  My head is spinning with options.  My heart is pounding. His gaze is unwavering.  I realize he deserves more.

I don’t know why.  I do know how much a mother loves her child.  I know how much it would hurt to leave someone you love that much.  So, I imagine the love for a mother’s child must be the reason she leaves.  She must love him so much that she knows it is what is right even though the pain is unbearable.

He doesn’t respond.  He wipes his face with his sleeve. He puts his notebook and pencil into his reading bag. He pushes his chair back and gets up to join the others on the rug.  As he steps away he turns back to look at me.  My breath holds preparing for his response.

Hey, do you have any more books like this? I want to read more books like this.

I do. 


I realize the power of a book.


Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year.


  • Avatar
    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 10:55h, 30 March Reply

    Clare, what a powerful post. As I read through I wondered what my response would be and was left speechless. I am not surprised he felt comfortable being vulnerable with you!
    Moving story and great reminder about finding those just right books!

  • Avatar
    Margaret Simon
    Posted at 11:00h, 30 March Reply

    Oh my, your post caught me in the gut. Why would a mom leave? Your answer was spot on. I don’t know is an answer I often give. Sometimes it’s the only answer.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 11:22h, 30 March Reply

    And this is why “It’s all about the books” – the right book at the right time. So powerful, Clare! Can’t wait to hear more!

    Questions in the hands of students . . . I don’t know why but it must have been a hard decision . . .

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 11:28h, 30 March Reply

    I would have wanted to leave that conversation, too. I am awed by how well you handled it, and you got to be in teacher mode at the end to boot. Reading may be what saves him — you become a lifeline. It’s a hard role, but I’ve no doubt you can do it.

  • Avatar
    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 11:52h, 30 March Reply

    So powerful, Clare. I have had some similar experiences with children I had in third and fourth grade. It’s a hard question. And books can do so much to let emotions eek out – to sometimes, relieve the pain. I just got an email from amazon that your new book is on the way. I will read it the minute it arrives. It’s all about the books – yes. What a great title for this new book. A touching story shared. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Stacey Shubitz
    Posted at 11:59h, 30 March Reply

    So many people would have wanted to move on from that conversation, but you didn’t leave. And that speaks volumes about you, your respect for kids, and your willingness to just be there even when you don’t know the right thing to do or say.

  • Avatar
    Glenda M. Funk
    Posted at 12:06h, 30 March Reply

    “Why would a mom just leave” and “I realize” repeated as you do here are such powerful words. I’m glad this young reader wants more stories like that. I wonder about his story.

  • Avatar
    Carol Wilcox
    Posted at 12:57h, 30 March Reply

    Phew! This is one powerful story and you tell it so, so, well. I agree with several other posters. This is why kids (and adults) need to be readers. I’m so glad you were there sitting beside this little guy, to offer him some one to process, not his reading comprehension, but his life! Thank you!.

  • Avatar
    Amanda Potts
    Posted at 13:13h, 30 March Reply

    Oh my gosh. What a powerful story. I am so glad that you were able to find the words you used – so amazed that he asked for another book like this one – so relieved that you knew the next book. This is why we read. Thanks for posting this!

  • Avatar
    Peggy Bruno
    Posted at 14:27h, 30 March Reply

    What a beautiful moment. You are so right, in those real moments of vulnerability, it is easy to escape. How wonderful that you did not and your response was perfect. What a lucky boy to have you.

  • Avatar
    Erika Victor
    Posted at 14:48h, 30 March Reply

    Ooof- how hard, how honest, how powerful. Books are often the way forward. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post.

  • Avatar
    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 15:12h, 30 March Reply

    Your post took my breath away. I sat on the edge of your words wondering where the conversation would be going. That connection! That feeling! That hopefulness! What a powerful exchange with a student. Thank you for sharing this, Clare!

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 18:55h, 30 March Reply

    You keep writing posts and I want to know the book even though it doesn’t matter because it’s really about the power of books. The same book doesn’t touch people the same way. It has to be the right book at the right moment. Your post reminds me of Kylene Beers and Robert Probst’s book that focuses on what’s in the book, what’s in the head, and what’s in the heart. This is SO in the heart, and isn’t that what books are really, really for. At the end of the day, we read to be emotionally touched.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 20:58h, 30 March Reply

    So,powerful, his question, your words, the books.

  • Avatar
    Johanna Likolehua Gerboc-Naulangi
    Posted at 03:21h, 31 March Reply

    It’s always hard when the learning part intersects with the personal part of a student’s life and yet it happens so often. What a profound answer to a difficult question. I too, would have wanted to escape as well and wonder what I might have said in that moment. I’m sure it would not have been as profound as what you said. Like Melanie, I also want to know what book it was this student was reading. It’s always amazing, the power of the written word. Makes me ever so grateful (again) for this challenge. Thank you for sharing!

  • Avatar
    Beth Hopkins
    Posted at 23:57h, 01 April Reply

    What a difficult moment. I felt as though I was sitting there with the student trying to answer his question. They don’t prepare us for moments like this.

  • #SOL18: What to read? | Resource - Full
    Posted at 16:30h, 07 April Reply

    […] Slice two – “The Power of a Book” […]

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