Better Than Gold: Journals by Paulette McLeod
First semester 2020, I had such an amazing group of Sophomores. These young people in this class are extremely bright and very conscientious about their work, especially with their writing. I was disappointed to see them move on, yet they have been very sweet to visit with me and to stay in touch second semester. I look forward to speaking to them in the hall each day, and I am excited to teach them again next year.
Those students are very close to each other also, and they help each other and love each other so dearly. Small communities can often be the homeplace that binds these students together for the rest of their lives. Wheeler County in Georgia is one such place. Each grade level has its own bond, and this type of love and of acceptance of each other is why I feel called to teach in this rural school system.
To our horror, the Wheeler County community has faced a tragedy this week. One of the precious Sophomores was killed in an ATV wreck Sunday afternoon, May 2, 2021. This student has loved and has supported so many of us; Paulette McLeod will always be a bright shining star just as she was in life. Yesterday was the most difficult and most somber day of my career. The heartbreak inside our building was tangible. It felt as though at any point in the day that we could cut the tension and the sadness with a knife.
As a teacher and as a mother, who watched my own children suffer because of an ATV wreck, I have seriously struggled to comprehend Paulette’s passing. Certainly, her death isn’t real. Certainly, this beautiful young woman is still here with us. Shock does wear off during the grieving process, and the sadness and madness follows. As a woman who always wants to “DO” something to help, I have felt utterly helpless. How could I bring comfort to a devastated family? How could I support my students who miss Paulette more than I do?
In my English classes, we do journal entries at the beginning of class using Schoology each day. I have 75 journals of Paulette’s to read, and I thought: what if her family members were able to read some of these? Then, I began to see a chapbook of Paulette’s work in my mind, so I read all her journals to find the ones that would bring the most comfort to her loved ones.
I selected 18 journals to use in the chapbook. By bedtime last night, I had the final design formatted and submitted to Amazon. This morning, it became active so that I could purchase copies to get to her family by this Friday. Five copies of Better Than Gold by Paulette and Jennifer are on their way to my house.
I chose the title Better Than Gold because of two reasons:
How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver. Proverbs 16: 16
I am trying to discern meaning from the meaningless, and I have sought His counsel. Wisdom in this situation is better than gold; in addition, having Paulette’s words is also more precious than gold to me. Reading her words would be more precious than gold to her family. Holding her thoughts in our hands is a tangible way to see a glimpse of the wondrous person she was, is, and is yet to come.
In the chapbook, I added two of my own poems and several of her photographs. I added “Hold on to Me” and “Invariably.” I don’t think I could ever adequately express to her family how much she means to me, but I hope this project gives them an inkling. I hope that when they get the book in their hands that it brings peace beyond understanding. I hope they can see her thoughts and her goals for the future and know exactly how brilliant and how special she is. Pray for the community and for Paulette’s family this week and the weeks to come.