My poem for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Twas the Night Before Christmas contest requires a little explanation. Several years ago I taught the first grade in an inner city school in Fort Worth, Texas. This school was built entirely underground. (a very bad thing in Texas, as the soil shifts terribly) Every time it rained, water trickled down my outer wall. The building was decrepit and moldy, and the children and I were sick most of the time. The children who attended the school came from the projects and the two homeless shelters located down the street from our school. Many of my students ate just two meals a day-the two meals provided by the school.
A local church adopted our campus, and every year at Christmas volunteers from this church gave presents to each girl and boy in the school. These amazing people also donated gifts for the children to take home to their families.
My poem was inspired by the time I spent at this school. Some parts are imaginary (there was no train) but the story is mostly real. I loved these children as if they were my very own. Teaching them changed my life forever, and I often wonder where they are now. I hope they are all safe, happy, and warm.‘Twas the week before Christmas when all through the school The children excitedly prepared for Yule. The choir sang carols of joy and good cheer, And how they’d behaved for their parents all year! The students drew snowmen and reindeer and elves Which teachers hung proudly upon all the shelves. My class in pajamas, and I with my book, Read about the adventures that Santa Claus took. When out in the hall there arose such a roar We jumped from our seats and ran to the door. We peeked ‘round the corner to see what was there, For a moment the children could only stare. I cried tears of joy when I saw their bright eyes The volunteers planned an amazing surprise. Hot cocoa they poured for the girls and the boys, And parked in the hall was a train full of toys! The kids-how they squealed! Their faces aglow As each took his present tied up with a bow. This Christmas each angel received a new gift The worries that this special day would sure lift. They returned to our classroom so happy to be Heading home with these gifts to put under the tree When I opened the door, all the children said “Look!” On each little desk sat a shiny new book. “Do you like them?” I asked, I brought them for you From every direction came hugs, how they flew! This Christmas was special, I knew right away For as long as I lived I’d remember that day.