Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What I Didn't Intend to Write

I didn't intend to write a post like this today. I intended to write a poem about fall at the lake, or a review of The Raven Boys, or

...well, anything but this.

Shots were fired in a small town to the south of us. Our school district is not in lock down, although the schools closer are. It's scary.

And here's what is worse. One of the shooters is rumored to be a former student of our district. As soon as his name was announced, there were shakes of the head. Kind of like, Yeah. That makes sense. He always was trouble. And I know he could be....

He must be 25 or so now, but to me, he will always be 13 and sitting in my English class. Hair in his face. Doodling on his paper. Drawing cartoon characters. He almost never turned work in. When he did, it was a mess. Pencil smudges everywhere. He was often sent to the alternative classroom for behavior or late work.

I remember his dad died after he left my class. Mom didn't have much control over the three boys (brothers, whom I also had in class.) More serious trouble seemed to follow him.  When I had the youngest of the three boys in class, he hated it when a teacher slipped and called him by a brother's name. He didn't want that reputation.

I look back now, with 20/20 vision. I see a young man who needed someone to care. Needed someone to hold out a hand and offer help. Someone to set boundaries and expectations.

No one did. It was easier to write him off as a bad one. Easier to expect the worse and ignore the good.

He was someone's kid. Someone's brother. And the adults in his life failed him.

And now, it seems, it may be too late.

So, the lesson for today is to take the time to connect to that kid in your class that no one likes. Smile at the "bad one" and ask how his/her day is going. Take a minute to give a pat on the back to the kid who never gets one.

Take the time to say You Matter.

Thanks again, Christy Rush-Levine!


  1. Thank you for taking time to write what was difficult today, for reminding us to do we know can make a difference- taking time to connect. Two brothers I currently have, and their sibs I will have in the next couple of years immediately came to mind as I read.

  2. I am sorry, Deb. When we hear of a tragedy of one of our students, we feel so sad, & ask over & over, what could we have done? Thank you for saying this, for reminding.

  3. Your writing honors students, honors them as humans, post after post in a manner unlike anyone else I read. I imagine the tugs your heart is feeling tonight. Thank you for taking the time to turn those tugs into gentle nudges, like ripples, sending us back into our schools, into our classrooms, tomorrow with a renewed intention to reach EVERY one.

  4. Thanks all of you. The day was tougher than I thought it would be when we found out in the morning. This young man stayed with me all day. It became a great teaching moment for me--we talked about not spreading rumors, and thinking about others before we speak.

  5. Christy said it so well, you have such a way of touching kids lives to let them know they matter.

  6. Deb, what a moving story and I am so sorry that this tragedy hit so close to home. As an adult, we have a hard time understanding, but as a teenager, it is so much more difficult. We all need to be reminded that we matter and it is so important in the lives of teenagers who seem to be lost in their own worlds. Keep reaching out to your students.

  7. Wow - and yes, ditto what Christy said! (She always has the right words!) You are the one continuously reminding us to reach out, look for the good, make that connection and let that one know that you care. I care. I do care. I do want to make a difference. Even on those days of frustration, anger or those days I just want to give up. But we can't. For this reason alone. For this one that is, unfortunately, not the only one. Thank you for your words today.

  8. I am haunted by your words. It takes everyone -- a team -- working together to save them. And if not to save them, at least to let them know they matter.

    You matter.

    I'm glad you keep writing -- even the tough stuff.


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