Response to the Ants

I have some YA writer heroes out there and one of them is A.S. King. In honor of the paper back release of Everybody Sees the Ants, I’m going to tell you why you should read this book and why it made me want to be a better teacher/grown up/human being. At least I’ll try to.  You should really just read the book.

You can read a synopsis of the book here. But I’ll summarize by saying the book is about a young man who’s being bullied.  It’s also about the adults who are well intentioned but unaware of the extent of the abuse he’s experiencing. It’s also about his Grandfather declared MIA in Vietnam and the magical realist dream sequences in which he interacts with his lost Grandfather. It’s a badass book.

Beyond its literary merit Everybody Sees the Ants reminded me that we don’t always see the abuse. As hard as teachers try to be in tune with their students, as hard as parents try to know their kids, as hard as friends try to be there for one another, sometimes things slip through. The result can be disastrous and scarring.  After reading this book I vowed to try harder and follow up when I see students joking, pushing, shoving, and teasing. I have  made more of a point of checking in with students about the true nature of their interactions, and maybe I’ve prodded a little more than I have in the past.

Are you guys really friends?

Are you sure he’s just kidding?

Did she mean that?

Are you upset by that comment?

I try and give kids multiple chances to let me know what’s going on, and then I remind them that I’m here and I’m always willing to listen.  But still I know it’s not going to be enough. Nonetheless I try because I know sometimes that’s all you can do. I try, and books like this one are good reminders of why it’s important to keep trying.

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