Near the beginning of each semester, my students write 100 word memoirs (thanks, Kittle & Gallagher). These never fail to knock my socks off, and this year that’s even more true. At my new school, many students have clear memories of coming to Canada, and many of them are continuing to learn English. Combined these lead to some great moments. For example, below, Tung wrote about his first time in a Canadian high school. Pay particular attention to the word “lost” – we’ll come back to that.
Walking through Canadian high school for the first time was like walking, lost, in an old tunnel surrounded by unknown creatures. The low-ceilinged crowded hallway was an ant’s nest of students trying to sprint through the narrow corridor. The thick moss-green bulletproof door had only a small glass cut-out, covered with an English-only poster. This prevented my curious eyes from spying on the Canadian students in the classroom. Everything was beyond my imagination. Each step I took, one rhythm faster my heart beat. What was I getting myself into? Would there be a light at the end of this tunnel?Tung, Grade 12
He added pictures – including some pictures of his school at home. It’s much, much brighter and airier than our school and I can safely guess that it has never seen snow.
Watching Tung try to capture the feeling of that first day was fascinating. Some descriptions came easily – he knew he wanted a tunnel and he knew the door needed to be moss-green and bulletproof. Those things never wavered. Other things changed – coming in, getting cut out, changing form. To me, the most interesting thing of all was the word “lost”. He really wanted it to be “losting”.
We chatted in the back corner of the room – the place he’s chosen for now – about this word. Somehow lost just wasn’t quite what he was looking for. He had a sense that losting wasn’t a “real” word, but he wanted the word to be active. He wasn’t simply lost, he was wandering, loose, casting about, feeling the sense of not fitting in, not knowing if he belonged. He was losting.
I couldn’t help but think of my own child, then quite small, crying as his grandmother left after another wonderful visit. He threw himself into her arms and said, “It’s your fault, the goneness.” The goneness. Really, it’s the only word for the feeling.
I told Tung he could keep “losting” – that it made sense to me and described what he was feeling – but English isn’t thoroughly his yet; making mistakes and making new words are still too intertwined to tease one away from the other. Still, I expect that the word exists now. I suspect that someday, probably soon, I will see a student wandering in the hallway with a particular look in their eye, and I will know that they are losting. When I do, I’ll try to help – because the goneness can be overwhelming.
7 thoughts on “Losting #SOL22 8/31”
Ooh, those are such expressioning words. I believe that living in lostness, is losting, and I have definitely lived the agony of the goneness. I think the inventions of those who are new to a language are the fresheners of our writing. They invent words, just as the best writers invent words and phrases. Today I was in a room when a teacher was reading Because of Winn Dixie to her class. I happened to be there when the Preacher described Opal’s mother as so good with plants that “she could plant a tire and grow a car.” Glad I got to read your post and hear that line.
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This is what it means to see your students, to hear their stories. A beautiful connection to your own son and tie it together at the end.
This is so beautiful. I will be looking for losting students too.
Losting and goneness are going in my vocabulary. I love how you honored him when he created a new word. Young toddlers just learning language do this and seem to express their feelings so much better than our run of the mill words.
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As many people in the world (including Tung) go through stretches of losting, it’s at least a tad comforting to know there are compassionate folks invested in founding.
Amanda, Tung has a beautiful way of writing and after your clear explanation, I can see his new word becoming a permanent one just as much as the word your son created. Sometimes, new words make more sense that the old reliable ones. I loved this slice.
Another beautiful post Amanda! I know exactly what “losting” means. I’ve felt myself losting before and your description immediately took me to New York City where I spent a lot of time losting.
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