Twas the Week Before Christmas…

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.


26 responses to “Twas the Week Before Christmas…

  1. Awww, so sweet! I am loving each different theme I am reading. You have really followed the original meter superbly, Kelly!

  2. Oh, this is beautiful, Kelly! You made me teary 🙂 What a wonderful thing you did, teaching those kids and giving them books. I’ve never heard of an underground school – it sounds really depressing! – I can’t imagine what would cause someone to build such a thing! You’re entry is terrific – a meaningful moving story and well written in rhyme! Thanks for joining in!!!

    • Spending all day underground was SO depressing! I tried to stretch our outdoor recess time as long as I could each day. We had one small skylight in the school-that was all. The school was built in the industrial part of town, so the builders thought that somehow it would be “healthier” for the kids. Turned out the opposite! However, there was a lot of love in that school! I’ll never forget it,

  3. elizabethannewrites

    You’ve made me teary as well, Kelly, and that’s a *good* thing. An excellently written poem, with such a message. Thank you for giving us the background behind the poem. How that dark, dank underground school (!) was brightened for those children that day. Wow.

  4. Absolutely beautiful and moving. You really write verse well. I appreciated knowing the story behind your poem because it added so much more meaning. I just loved it!

  5. Very touching story Kelly. Thank you for sharing it. Plus, great verse!

  6. Catherine Johnson

    That is adorable and so moving Kelly. Well done, thanks for sharing.

  7. I can imagine how amazing that would have been for you and the kids. That’s something that would stay with you forever. I’m a teacher too, but I’ve never worked in a school like the one you described. I am sure it would have been both challenging and rewarding. How special for those volunteers to give those children such a special gift at Christmas time.

    P.S. Your meter was spot on with the original poem, you did a fantastic job.

    • Thank you so much, Jo! You are exactly right-it was extremely challenging-but something I would do again and will never forget. I developed chronic bronchitis from the mold so only worked there a year-but what a year to remember! Those kids were my angels 🙂

  8. Love it! Books are the perfect gift for children. Very sweet poem.

  9. What a sweet poem! Did you find it hard to rhyme so well in such a hurry? I surely did. Good luck and Merry Christmas!

  10. What a beautiful post and a beautiful thing you did for those children. I am sure you impacted their lives more than you could possibly know. You inspire me!

  11. My favorite lines:

    When I opened the door, all the children said “Look!”
    On each little desk sat a shiny new book.

    I am sure all the children have the fondest memories of Miss K! Thanks for sharing your story and your poem. Have a lovely Christmas!

  12. This is so beautifully written and heartfelt. Best of luck in the contest! What a special poem!

  13. What a wonderful tribute to your students, Kelly! I, too, was a former school teacher, and often wonder what has happened to my students. I admire you for sticking with a less than optimal situation for the sake of the children…it shows your love for them.

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