Whenever I pray in the morning (sorry, I'm not very devout, so I don't always remember), I ask God to use me to make a difference for kids. Every single time I do that, He follows suit. Today was no exception, only with a little twist.
Robert and I haven't been getting along too well, ever since he spent that week on the "F-List," unable to wrestle, a few weeks back. We just have this adversarial relationship most of the time; I hound him about his homework, call home and narc him out to his family about it, etc. He glowers at me and fights me at every turn but is passing, nonetheless. There just isn't much time during which either one of us smiles at each other anymore. Frankly, I've been getting tired of putting in so much work that is obviously not appreciated by Robert.
Last weekend, I was grading journals (which we do every couple of weeks) when I came upon one of Robert's entries (from when he was on the F-list)....
"I wish I was still in wrestling. I had to quit because I was falling off task. I failed my goal, and no turning back, I have to catch up. I just wish life is easy. Life isn't fair. I tried to be like everyone else. I just can't."
Broke. My. Heart.
Today, Robert said casually, in homeroom, "There's a wrestling tournament tonight. At school."
I was distracted and replied, "Oh, really? Are you wrestling?" I don't remember what he replied, because, honestly, I was too busy to think about it and got distracted.
Later, in the last class of the day, Robert said again, "Mrs.4444, did you know there's a wrestling tournament at school tonight?"
"Oh, that's cool," I replied. "I should try to go to that if it doesn't get cancelled because of the weather." I was very busy (again), so I didn't notice if he responded.
An hour later (about 4:30pm), I was working late (waiting for Kyle to finish swim practice at 5:30pm) when an "Alert Now" message about a wrestling practice being canceled popped up on my screen, and had a fleeting thought that I was glad I was off the hook. At 5pm, something told me to open that message, and I saw that it was actually for the grade school, not the middle school. Shoot. That meant the wrestling tournament was probably going on in the gym, and I had missed half of it. I quickly packed up and headed down.
Robert had already wrestled one match (I think that's what they're called, anyway.) I could see him sitting across the gym with his team. I wasn't sure if he saw me sneak in so late or not. A nice man checked the schedule for me, and I saw that Robert had one more match left, so I sat down to wait. As luck would have it, about 30 minutes later, Robert walked up for his match on the mat right in front of the bleachers I was sitting on! He looked so pumped and focused!!
I know nothing about wrestling, but I know it's exciting! Robert is a short little guy, but stocky, strong, and persistent! In the first period (I think there are three), I found myself yelling, "Get 'em, Robert!" The referee (or whatever he's called) blew his whistle to apparently end the first period, and I kid you not, that kid stopped for a second, looked directly up at me in the stands, and flashed me a smile that lit up his whole face! He quickly got back to business and cleaned up on his opponent, winning the match in no time. I was especially impressed by the way he listened to every word his coach said to him during the match, adjusting his footing, rising up, etc. and attentively listened to his coach's feedback after the match.
My heart is full from seeing Robert dominate the wrestling mat and feel so proud of himself, his little chest puffed out, arms pumped up. What I realize, as I reflect on this now, is that tonight, Robert made a difference in me, and I am not ashamed to tell you that it chokes me up to realize that. I am reminded that smiles like those, self-esteem boost,s and moments of pride-filled elation, are what make every bit of effort teachers put in worth it,
and I am going to keep harassing that little stinker.