Monday, April 2, 2012

Dear Mrs. Day

He was never given much of a chance. In fact, one of his teachers declared it Christmas when he was removed from school and sent away.

He was 15 years old.

Academically challenged.
Poor home life.
Anger issues.


Students loved to say and do things that set him off. 

It happened several times. Yelling and screaming. A broken window. A knife.  

People at times were understandably afraid of him.  There were plans in place to handle him. You were never to yell at him in front of others, or even to point out when he was in the wrong.  Basically, if he was in your class, you handled him with kid gloves.


A recipe for trouble.

I remember the first day I really talked to him.

Three years ago in May, I sat in the library while my students were researching a speech.  He was sitting at a different table with the man who was his one on one aide.  The man was a retired teacher hired just to follow this student around, and make sure he got some work done in class. But mostly, this man was hired to make sure the student didn't fight with others in the hallway.

The boy came over and sat down beside me.

"Mrs. Day, can I talk to you about speech?"
"Sure. What do you want to know?"

He, like most freshmen, was afraid to take my class.  Mostly, because it was speech, but, also, he had heard in junior high that I was tough. We talked for the entire class period.

There were minor incidents in my classroom the semester I had him in class, but for the most part, he was a good kid.  He worked hard on his speeches and really liked doing them.  He always did his best for me. And I always let him know when he did well.

He came back for a visit a few weeks ago.  He had just been released from the facility where he was sent. We chatted for quite awhile. I asked about what he did in the facility and how he was doing now.

"It was pretty good, Mrs. Day.  They really helped me handle my anger issues. I haven't hit anybody in months.  I also got caught up on my classes. I might be able to graduate with my class next year."

He wants to go into the service.  I'm not sure how that will go, but it might be just the thing he needs. Structure and discipline. Something he didn't get a lot of at home.

Why did I write about this young man. Because today, you see, I got a letter in my school mailbox.  The grammar wasn't correct, nor was the punctuation.  But it was sincere. And the last line made me cry--

In all Mrs. Day, I would like to say thank-you for believing in me.


And that is why I teach.

8 comments:

  1. Deb, wonderful for you, double for him that you did believe, as I think you do of every student, have them in class or not. I wish someone could bottle you up so that teachers could have a drink of how you do things to reach children, & they are children, to be nurtured & cared for. One piece of learning would be not to say "It's Christmas" when someone leaves. So sad, but things are better in your story & I'm glad you shared all of it!

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  2. Wow, what an incredible story! I love how you talked to him and treated him like any other student -- gave him a chance. How neat that you heard from him what an impact that had, and how great to know he's finding success!

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  3. The sad thing is there is always a little child in that angry body. And very few teachers out there want to expend the energy it takes to find it and nurture it. How horrific to declare Christmas when a student leaves! I know the work these students require from the teacher. I always liked these students, as I sense that you do. There was always a sweet individual inside that I felt privileged to meet. This one sounds sweet and appreciative!

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  4. How awesome that you got a thank you! It is cases like that where you usually have no idea the impact you made.

    It strikes me how realistic you are about this kid. You don't sugarcoat any bit of this story or even play up the magical effect of your classroom (and believe me, it is magic that happens within those walls when you are teaching). I think your realism communicates exactly how powerful this story is.

    It does my heart good to hear that you not only reached this student, but got recognition--just the right kind--for all of your efforts.

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  5. Awesome. It takes one to believe. Just awesome.

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  6. Deb,
    What a beautiful post. I have a feeling he will carry that belief with him wherever he goes --- and maybe, just maybe, it will make all the difference.

    Cathy

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