I have been trusted with much. . . I sit here, having read several of my students’ creative writing portfolios, and I feel as if I have just stayed up all night hashing through life with five good friends. . .

These students are so brave – they put it all on the paper for me to see, me, just their English teacher, not their best friend, not even really their friend at all on most levels.

And yet, I must critique their words, and while I can think I’m separating their words from their feelings, their experiences, their pain, their love, I know I can’t completely, and I’m not sure they can at all. (At least, I can’t always do that when I write and receive criticism.)

I know that I need to give them honest feedback – that this feedback is the caring thing to do – yet I still feel like I’m looking at my friend who has just told me the love of his life has died and saying “couldn’t you say that in a fresher way – what was her dying like?”

Sometimes doing this job well and compassionately seems so impossible . . . and yet I trudge on.