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Monday, April 14, 2008

If you teach long enough, sadly, this will probably happen

I wish the story below was not true, but sadly, many teachers have stories such as this.

Sunday, April 13, 2008
I spent this morning before church reminiscing about a former student. As I counted the years backward, he couldn't have been out of his late teens by now. He'd been a troubled young man-- running around loose, mother blaming everyone and everything but refusing to place any limits on him. He'd been expelled from a private school, and we had been charged with trying to turn him around. He stayed out, he drank, he smoked weed, he boasted of exploits with girls-- and this was as a 7th grader.

The first parent-teacher conference we had with his mom was amazing in her lack of influence over her kid. It was one of those conferences where we had to stop in the middle of it and tell the kid that we would not tolerate him talking to any adult in the way he was talking to his mother and basically threaten to kick him out of the conference. It was that bad. He was a good-looking boy, and it was a good-looking family with expensive clothes and all the material advantages. Certainly his family had lots of money, but not a lot of common sense went on in that house, it was obvious. We cared for him, we enforced rules even when his mother threatened to go to the superintendent at every turn, we refused to respond to his tantrums or manipulation, we tried one-on-one with him, but nothing seemed to work. We refused the mother's demand-- and I am NOT kidding-- that we call the house every morning to get him up since she huffed that she couldn't do it herself.

I moved to the high school at the same time he did. I would see him occasionally in the hallways during class time and direct him back to class. Then one day, I didn't see him any more, and was told he was on long-term suspension. That was the last I heard about him except for the occasional overheard story of him at some party from the rest of my students.

I opened up the paper this morning and was working my way through as is my wont on a Sunday after I have done my morning prayer and told my kids to get up and get moving before we go to church. I got to the obituary section, which I usually skip over with a cursory glance, when a picture of that young man jumped out at me. I knew that face.

It didn't say why he died, but it was far too soon. I have no idea what happened to him after he dropped out of our high school and our alternative program. His life was all too brief, and never really happy. He certainly didn't know what to do with himself. I had hoped that he had gotten some sort of plan in place, and thought about him from time to time, especially when conference time would roll around and I would think about some of the doozies I had sat through in all the years.

How very sad. What a waste.

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