Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Whys of Good-Byes

"I'm going to miss you, Mrs.4444."

"What do you mean?"

"Today is my last day."

"Today? Are you kidding me?!"

"No. We have to move tomorrow."

I've only known "John" two weeks. It's a long story, so you'll have to trust me when I say that he is much better off staying. Here's an example of how I know this:  After just two hours at our school, I heard him half-whisper to me,

"Will you take me home with you?"

"What did you say?"

"Nothing." [smiles]

John's repeatedly said, "This school is awesome!" in the short time I've known him.  It breaks my heart to see him go. He reminds me of another boy who came into my teacher-life for a short time (about four years ago) and touched my heart in a similar way. Brian was a little gang-banger (from an urban area in another state) who had a little bit of a rough time adjusting to life at Tinytown Middle School, at first. He told me that he had been "kicked out" of his last two schools and that he hated school. At the time, my classroom was a self-contained, special education class for students with severe behavioral issues. Brian was with me for all but one class each day; he was on a partial-day schedule (Given his history, we were working our way up to a full day.).

One day, Brian got worked up about the fact that he had gone home before lunch and missed a disagreement between two other boys at lunch.

"Oh, Man! I woulda been so up in that!" he asserted, punching one fist into the palm of his other hand.

"You don't understand." I explained. "It wasn't like that--They just had a disagreement, not a fight. You don't need to do that here--Nobody does that here. Tinytown is not that kind of place."

It took Brian a while to notice that he was the only one in the building walking with his pants a mid-thigh (whenever he had the chance), with a swagger that warned, "You better not mess with me--I'm serious."  He was such a little fish out of water, that kid. It was actually kind of comical; his street machismo in our "country" school. He never got in a single fight in the time he was with us, though; no one was interested in him as an adversary; all of that posturing was merely met with curiosity.

As tough as he was, Brian was also weak; skinny, pasty-faced kid who came in starving every morning and was really ugly until we'd feed him. I crossed a professional boundary the Saturday that I stopped by his house with a Super Value Meal and handed it to him in the driveway without even opening my car door--I had come to my senses moments earlier--What was I thinking?! I didn't really know this kid! For all I knew, his stories of being abused at home could have been total bull. His parents had left for the weekend; it would be his word against mine if he decided to accuse me of something inappropriate.

A week or two later, Brian asked if he could move in with me (and my family) for a while. (Yes, seriously.)  He said his parents were going on a vacation to his old stomping grounds (for a couple of weeks) and he said his mom wanted to know if I'd let him stay with me when they were gone; he didn't want to go with them.  Of course, I told him no. He said he understood.

And then, several days later, he came in and told me that his parents had put all of their furniture in the yard and burned it, the night before. What?! Were these people nuts?! That's when it occurred to me...

"You're not going on vacation, are you? You're moving back [to his former city]!"

"I am?! I better not be!"  He was honestly shocked.  Like my recent student, Brian, too, had grown to love Tinytown Middle School.

But he was moving.  He never said good-bye; just didn't come to school the next day.

After Brian left, I kept wondering why our paths had met in the first place, since he hadn't even been at our school half the year; it seemed like such a waste. He was just beginning to relax a little, and he was also becoming a better reader and writer.  It was so discouraging, knowing he was going back to a tough school.

Finally, it occurred to me that, sometimes, a boy on a tough road needs an oasis. Even though he had only been with us a short time, I felt confident that he would look back with positive feeling, remembering a school at which he had success. I know that wherever Brian is today, he has good memories of Tinytown Middle School.

And so will John.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. Maybe because I love teenagers, it speaks to me. Kids like John and Brian are such victims of bad parental choices. I feel for them.


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