"I want to be like you"
(in memory and honor of Alyson Bowman - and in celebration of the new gym/community center at Girls Inc. of Bristol)
I taught Alyson Bowman when she was in 6th grade at Stonewall Jackson Elementary in Bristol, Virginia. She died this past November at the age of 41.
In between those two events is what I want to write about here; the life of a bright and energetic young girl who wanted to become a teacher.
Back when I taught Alyson in elementary school, I gave the class an assignment to write one day; the topic was to be about what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Alyson quickly jotted down a few words on her paper, then began looking around the class for a chance to get into some mischief and meanness - either of which she was prone to instigate and/or join in at a moment’s notice.
The assignment was to write a full page, at least, so I moseyed over toward Alyson’s desk. At my approach she quickly snatched up her paper and turned it over to where I couldn’t read what she wrote. “Please, Mr. Talley,” she said, “I don’t want you to read it yet. But you’ll like it. Trust me.”
So I did. Trust her. I didn’t read it. Yet.
A bit later, as we began sharing our hopes and dreams out loud around the classroom, I noticed that Alyson began to squirm and look nervous. This young lady wore her emotions on her face in a way that few, if any, could surpass.
When it came her time, Alyson said, “Please, Mr. Talley, I want it to be a surprise for you later. Can you take mine up and not read it to the class?”
I know. Some teachers might have coaxed her into reading her words out loud. Some might have demanded she write much more than she did. But I noticed a singular passion in her eyes. Something told me that whatever she wrote was of extreme personal importance to her - perhaps even privately so. The pained expression on her face spoke to that, for sure.
So again, I abided by her wishes.
It was not until later that day, after all the children had left for home, that I read her words.