Essays and Vignettes
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A collection of essays and vingettes too short to serialize. All chapters based on real life experiences. Names changed to protect privacy.
Chapter 1, 1. The Troubled Student
It's the last Monday of the school year. Everyone is tired. Everyone wants to be done. As the teacher, I'm more than a little frantic. Desperately trying to get F's to D's, prepare a Final, and generally wrap up the school year. It's the last hour of the longest Monday in the school year. In this hour are three students who, like oil and water, do not make a good combination. Finally, fed up with repeated distraction and misbehavior, I said something I probably shouldn't have. "This was my best class before you three moved in!"
On the two, more confidant, students it had the desired effect. They returned to their seats and with only a few more nudgings, they actually managed to produce some kind of finished work.
On the third, the effect was not positive. This student has had a terrible year, he can't keep his grades up and on top of that, his parents divorced and they're attending court almost biweekly to address domestic violence. He'd already admitted more than once that when I yelled in class, it reminded him of those things he'd like to forget, so when I made my declaration, it shattered his confidence. Without a word, he walked out of the classroom and sat outside my door.
I knew as soon as I saw him leave, what I had done. As probably his most trusted teacher this year, I had just shattered the trust he'd placed in me. I gave him a minute to calm down, while I settled the more confidant students at their desks, before I went out to talk to him.
I braced my back against the wall and squatted down next to him, not to close. Before I could say a word, he said he didn't want to talk about it.
I knew he was mad at me, and I said as much.
Immediately defensive, he repeated that he didn't want to talk about it and that I could go right ahead and send him to In House Detention (as so many others had done.)
I told him that no, I wouldn't send him to ISD. Because he had not done anything to deserve it.
I saw the urge to say something mean flash in his eyes. But instead he clenched his jaw and wouldn't look at me.
I waited about five seconds, to let the silence soothe a little of his pain, before I dared to breach that place all teacher's have, but aren't supposed to show. The place where our feelings for our favorites live. Hesitantly, not sure if this was the right thing to do, but knowing I had to do or say something, I spoke.
"You're a good kid." His eyes flashed sideways at me as if he didn't believe me.
"You've come a long way this year." I paused to organize my thoughts. "I'm hard on you, I know that. But I'm hard on you because I know you're capable of so much more."
I looked away to give him some space "You know, when I tell stories about this year, when I talk about my proudest achievements about this year, you're always the one I talk about."
He glanced at me, his large brown eyes shining, wanting to hope but afraid to.
"When you first came to me, you were this kid who fought at everything. You fought with everyone at the drop of a hat. I had the hardest time getting you to not fight, much less focus and get work done. But now," I paused to revel in the memories, "now you can be in a room full of students and never fight. You can be surrounded by people who poke at you, and you don't fight." I looked at him, his jaw was clenched but his eyes were moist. "you've come so far. I am so proud of that. You are my best memory of this year."
I paused, gathering my courage to admit something to him that I hadn't told a single student yet, something that still hurt to admit
"You wanna know a secret?" I asked.
No one can resist a secret.
"I'm not teaching next year."
"Cause teaching sucks." My voice was heavy with exhaustion, he couldn't help but let out a rough laugh. "And it doesn't pay me enough."
I looked away again, afraid if I kept looking at him, I'd cry "So you are my favorite memory of my last year of teaching, ever."
His eyes were suspiciously moist and he wouldn't look at me, but I could tell he wasn't angry anymore. "Take your time." I told him as I stood back up and headed back into my classroom of entirely too many students.
It was hard to keep my own tears from falling, hard to go back into that classroom and be stern like they needed me to be, when all I really wanted to do was cry that I couldn't do this anymore.
I tutor in my off time, sometimes.
Later, I gave him my website and told him I wanted to keep working with him through high school, and since I know his family can't afford a tutor's full rate, I have a special price for him. So that I can keep working with him.
I hope he takes it.
Because he needs more than just one teacher who believes in him.
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