I'm going to divert from the format again tonight. I can do that. It's my blog. I make the rules here, darn it!
Besides, it's good to shake things up every now and again. Keeps me on my toes and all that. So here is a Not So Much With The Bullet Points Post and a promise to return to my random blatherings in short order.
I received an email from The Cheerful Teaching Assistant last week. She informed me that, while wandering the halls and trying to find a clear route through all the seniors lined up and attempting to do a serious version of marching practice, she happened to see a familiar face. A very proud face. And once she saw it, she took a moment to blubber quietly in some private corner of the high school and then inform me of the sight so I could tear up a bit myself.
I didn't outright blubber. Let's be clear on that right now. I may have gotten a bit misty, but I'm not all pregnant and hormonal like the CTA. I've got some control going on over here.
Some of you might remember the owner of that face. I've mentioned him once or twice over the years. He went through a couple of incarnations name-wise due to the fact that I first met him at the half-way mark of his sixth grade year, then didn't see him again for a brief period. In the end, though, I settled on something like The Boy With The Bottomless Gym Bag. It fit. I've rarely seen a more random collection of objects make their way into a school building and to this day I don't know how he managed that particular form of magic. It wasn't a particularly large bag.
I know I've told a few tales about him. He was the one who, as a mere sixth grader, had the audacity to speak in dictatorial tones to me while I began the process of moving items to the new classroom I'd been assigned to the following year.
"Put that down," he demanded. "You are sick. I can hear you coughing all the way down the hall and I know you have pneumonia because I heard you telling the other teachers so don't even bother lying about it. I'm taking care of this. It's what I do. You go sit somewhere. Seriously...you are as bad as my mother with this stuff!"
And that was that. He rallied the other students and had the classroom packed, moved and almost organized before I could work up enough breath to say something about how I wasn't sure we were insured for this kind of child labor.
I remembered that kindness when I was moved up to the middle school to take over his classroom. It's a good thing, too. His 7th grade year was an unqualified and oft-mentioned disaster. So much so that, by the time I arrived, he was being afforded the privilege of repeating it. But, what can I say? I liked the kid. Who doesn't have some affection for a boy who forces you into a seat when you really need to be sitting but won't admit it?
Some of you might recall him now. You may remember me telling of the time he found a doll head in his bottomless gym bag. He hadn't the foggiest notion how it got there, but it delighted him all the same. He tied a string to it and swung it around faster and faster until it made a whistling sound. He's also the kid who came to school with food poisoning after a massive storm knocked out power in his town for a week. He was shooting for perfect attendance that year and needed to make it to noon before the day counted. I've never seen skin quite that shade of gray, but we stuck it out with him. And he made it.
I'm positive I wrote about the time he stopped on his way out the door one warm Friday afternoon and said, "Ms. Sheep? I know you don't have kids or anything like that. But I still think you deserve to have a Happy Mother's Day, OK?"
There were oodles of good stories I told about TBWTBGB. But there were lots I never shared because it somehow felt disrespectful. Downright wrong, even. Everyone deserves to have a protector, even if it's just about holding back a few details.
For example, I may have shared with you the day we spent trying to not talk about anything food related while he battled power-outage induced nausea. But I don't think I ever told you about how, in addition to getting sick, he'd also been up several nights in a row with a baseball bat in hand. He'd been protecting his sister's room after people tried to break in during those extra dark nights.
I am certain I never shared the other half of the story about that gym bag. Some of the things he brought to school in that ever-expanding marvel of modern stitchery were personal possessions he sold to other kids in order to bring in a little more money. Sometimes I think it was to pay for his lunch. That was the year they made some pretty drastic changes to the free/reduced lunch policy and his family just didn't have it. He never told me and I never asked. But I am almost positive that is where some of those random bagged items went.
I'll bet you a million dollars right now that I didn't tell you about that time with his Dad and how he hated having to get physical but what else can you do when someone is so drunk he isn't safe? He only shared that one incident with me. There were others, though. I know that. Not "think." Not "suspect." I know.
There was really no way to accurately describe the look of stunned disbelief on his face when we told him that the assistant principal had made a phone call home on his behalf and convinced his mother that his efforts this year should allow him to move up as a freshman as opposed to staying at the middle school for another year. When it finally hit home that his retention was officially rescinded, I don't think I've ever seen a boy smile so broadly.
Perhaps I mentioned that he visited us last year on a humid, rainy day. But I didn't tell you that he was stopping by after walking fifteen miles from his older brother's place. He'd been kicked out of his house and, because he was now living out of district, the buses couldn't come get him. But he thought he could still make his last two classes and he really wanted to keep up his attendance if he could.
Our high school graduation was last weekend. Prior to that, they held Convocation. I know he was there because The Organized Teaching Assistant was present to witness her own son's pre-graduation ceremony and she saw him. There were a lot of kids, though and it was sort of hard to pick him out of the crowd. They all dress alike for these sorts of things, you see. In addition, there is a tradition at the end of this event where the seniors leave the stage to go give a carnation to someone who helped them through their high school years. The idea is to remember to thank those individuals and I would imagine there is a bit of chaos at that point. The OTA was thrilled to see her son bearing down upon her, carnation in hand. She lost track of TBWTBGB. She was pretty sure his mother was there, though and that he thanked her. That is good. I like to think that there is still hope for them since I actually rather liked his mother and when you think about it, how bad could she be? She raised a pretty decent kid, after all.
When the OTA turned around to go back to her seat, she realized there was someone next to her. She looked up and there he was. Still beaming, just like the CTA described and looking as proud as she'd ever seen him in his maroon cap and gown. She was thrilled that he stopped by to say hello before leaving. But he wasn't really there to say hello.
He was there to thank her.
I don't think he knew she would be there nor do I think it was a planned thing. I believe he caught sight of her and wanted to make sure he said the words. This, of course made her cry and when she passed on those thanks to me the following day, she was still a little misty.
Again, I did not cry. I will admit to the room suddenly getting a little sparkly and having to wave my hands frantically in front of my face for a minute, but I did not cry. I am not a mother getting ready to watch her son graduate from high school any more than I am a hormonally charged pregnant lady. I've got a firm grip on my tear ducts and don't you forget it.
Just a little soggy around the edges of my eyes. That's all. Frankly, I am beginning to think that everyone is just trying to see if they can make me weep. But I won't. I've got it all under control.
It is maybe just a teeny bit hard to see the screen right now, but that is probably just allergies. No, I am not one given to overt displays of emotion. I'm just the lady who somehow finds the time to teach in between dodging whizzing doll heads and trying to ignore the storefront lurking inside a gym bag because sometimes a little dignity is all you can give a kid. Trust me on that one.
I will say this, though. Most of the time, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it ain't a peacock. And, sadly, sometimes the kid who looks like a thug and acts like a thug is truly no more than that. Other times, however, there is more to that story.
And I'm glad I got to be a part of this one.
2 days ago