My mouth tends to get me in trouble. Not having my filter anymore makes it even more likely that my mouth will get me in trouble. This past school year, I had a remarkable student that I want to tell you about. He said I could write this blog about him, and I promised to keep his name anonymous. Some of you may know him or have heard me talk about him. He truly is an amazing young man who has risen above his circumstances.
We had just returned back to school after having two days off after the blizzard in February. My students weren't in the mood to learn, and I was crabby with having to work extra hard with keeping them on task. Towards the end of the period, I handed out grade sheets. When I handed this young man his grade report, his face dropped a little and he made an innocent comment about how his percentage had dropped (it was still above a 100%, though). Well, it was 7th period, and like I said, I was crabby. Immediately, I said something dripping with sarcasm (I'm really good at that), and walked away. A few minutes later I looked back over and the young man was crying. Oh crap, I said in my head, this is not what I had intended. Usually after I've been sarcastic with a student, they go back to what they were doing and we are fine. I walked over and apologized for upsetting him with my words, but I still felt bad- I rarely make kids cry, and to me this did not seem like one of those instances where I would make a kid cry. I kept going over my words (of course, I don't remember them now) and they didn't seem like they were that sarcastic or hurtful.
My guilty conscience continued to plague me. I again apologized to him after class before I left for the day. I could see that something was clearly bothering him, but he wouldn't tell me. So, I tried one last ditch effort- facebook. I sent him this email:
"I just wanted to apologize again. I was just giving you a hard time, and I didn't realize that you were feeling so much stress. I won't joke around with you like that anymore in class. I realized that you don't quite get my sarcastic sense of humor and I feel badly. Anyway, I wanted to apologize again. You are one of the brightest and hardest working kids that I have ever met and you have a bright
future ahead of you. I hope you realize how smart you are. You are going to do big things with your life. I believe in you."
I received his response very quickly, and when I read it, I have to say it was quite unexpected. He told me that it wasn't me he was upset with, and it wasn't me who made him cry, that he would have cried anyway. He shared with me that right after he graduated junior high, his father murdered his mother (whoa). He now lives with his aunt who tells him every day what a horrible and selfish kid he is. She doesn't let him talk about his mother or visit the gravesite when he wants to.
Wow. That is a lot for a 15 year old kid to have to deal with. Did I mention that this kid has a 4.5 gpa on a 5.0 scale? Did I mention that this kid is one of the nicest young men that I have ever met? Did I mention that this kid has impecable manners? The day I missed school because Juliana had her seizure, I immediately got an email from him asking how she was doing.
Wait, there's more. Towards the end of the school year, his aunt's husband (his uncle) was killed in a terrible motorcycle accident. I know. How much more does he have to go through? He and I had many discussions about God after class. He knows what I believe and where I stand, but he is searching still. His aunt takes him to a church, but he feels as if he is judged there, because his aunt tells stories about him that aren't true. I explained to him that all churches are not like that.
The final blow. The last day of school, he stayed behind after everyone left. I used to let my students sign their names on my classroom wall. I didn't this year, because I was informed it was going to be painted over during the summer. He asked me if he could please write his name on the wall, so it would be like he existed somewhere. I let him do it, and then he told me that his aunt was sending him to live with his Grandma and his Grandfather (who has terminal cancer) in Florida for the summer or possibly until he turned 18. I asked him when he would find out if he was coming back. He told me his aunt told him to pack as if he was never coming back. I asked him when he was leaving. He said 2 days. He was upset because he had wanted to visit his mother's gravesite as her birthday was coming up (as was his- they are 2 days apart), and he wasn't going to have the opportunity to do so. We said goodbye, and I told him I hoped to see him on the first day of school.
Well, I just got an email from him. He won't be coming back. He told me he will be living with a cousin, and he is no longer under stress. No one is telling him that he is a bad kid anymore and no one is telling him that he is a horrible human being anymore. I hope that he continues to shine where he is now. This kid is special. He works so hard and it doesn't come easy for him. He doesn't have the best life, but he doesn't let it get to him and bring him down. He's rising above it. I'll keep praying for him, and I hope you pray for him too. I'm going to miss seeing him when school starts up again. This is one of the reasons I became a teacher, to experience something like this. Keep your chin up, anonymous, I believe in you!