Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Country Boy

On a quick errand to the store, I ran into a former student of mine. In fact, he had had to suffer through me as I blundered through my first year of teaching because I didn't have a clue.

He always was a country boy and now he is full grown. I almost didn't recognize him. The last time I saw him, he was a gangly teen who hadn't yet grown into his feet.

Country Boy: "You'll never guess what I am doing now."

Me: "Are you working on your grandmother's farm?"

Country Boy: "Nah. That farm has done been sold. A bunch of years ago. I'm a mechanic." (Great! Thanks for making me feel old.)

Me: "That is great! Do you work on cars?"

Country Boy: "Actually, I mostly work on farm equipment. I wanted you to know what I did cuz you always did say I was good with my hands."

When he hugged me to get back to his task of buying a video game, a flood of memories came rushing forward causing me to choke back the lump in my throat.

This was the student who put three tables together in my classroom when I couldn't figure out the directions.

This was the student who got up extra early one morning to milk the cow because I had never had *fresh* cow milk.

This was the student who could not figure out commas. (We won't even discuss colons and semi-colons.)

This was the student who had some serious anger issues. Who didn't want to smile. Who didn't want me to like him.

Before the first day of school, I had read his IEP (Individualized Education Plan). It clearly said Country Boy needed me to help him with his emotional outbursts. He also needed serious instruction in the areas of Reading and Writing. As I read each IEP of all my upcoming 6th grade students, I found all 16 of them to be eerily similar and I knew I wouldn't be able to tell Country Boy from Spitting Girl based on the words written on the documents.

Since I needed to get to know my students, the first day of school was filled with Ice Breaker activities designed to get my students to talk. And to hopefully begin the bonding process of this journey through education.

When Country Boy came into the room, he slumped in his seat with his arms crossed. Clearly, he was not humored to be in school. At the end of the day, he finally began to share a story. As the story poured out of him I was left in awe. His story involved a father who beat his mother until he was arrested and sent to prison. Then, when the mother remarried, the new step-father was also an abuser. That step-father found pleasure in abusing Country Boy along with the mother. One day, Country Boy came home from school and found his mother strangled to death. After living in foster care, he was finally sent to live with his grandparents in Georgia. His grandfather died two years later from a heart attack and now his grandmother was battling cancer. He was worried that she might die, too.

I was supposed to teach him to read. And to control his emotions.

And this was the first student for whom I cried.

38 comments:

Jan said...

Oh, Beth - how wonderful to know you DO make a difference.

Midwest Mommy said...

Wow, you have brought back a flood of emotions that I haven't felt since being in the classroom. Your last words in this post are so true.

Hit 40 said...

I want to cry now! Poor kid. My children have no idea how lucky they have it!!!

I love seeing past students. They always remember me like a "rock star" when they spot me. Very fun :-)

I just do not like being noticed in the ER when I have vertigo with projectile.. you know. How to make conversation when sick??

We are almost there.... summer summer summer!!!!!!

lisa said...

Wonderful story. And the right teacher makes a world of difference to a child. Lovely.

Leslie Hanna said...

What a touching story. How wonderful to have the opportunity to touch the lives of others, even if you didn't know it at the time.

Deb said...

That is amazing. You made a difference when others might not have cared.

Musings of the Mrs. said...

Teachers are angels. Really!

Gaston Studio said...

After you cried your heart out, you must have felt so good about being able to contribute so positively to someone in need. Wow!!!

beth said...

god. how much does every stupid little thing seem worth it when you run into him and he tells you what an impact you had on his life? i think i might want to be a teacher when i grow up, now!

Smart Mouth Broad said...

You just never know how something you do or say will make a huge impact on another's life. How awesome that you made such a difference in his life.

lakeviewer said...

It all comes back in a flush, doesn't it? And how wonderful to see that a needy child became a self-actualized adult. "Thanks, teach!"

beth said...

ps - i just gave you an award at my blog. you can check it out here: http://becarefulwhatyouwishfor-beth.blogspot.com/2009/05/random-thoughts-tuesday.html

tera said...

Wow. How cool to know you made a difference to someone in such a tangible way.

H.K. said...

Your story proves to me once again that teachers really do make a difference! My mother taught for over 30 years and wondered often if it made a difference...at her retirement party over 200 of her former students showed up.

Reinvent Dad said...

My Mom is a retired Kindergarten/1st Grade teacher who for years on her license plate cover had a saying "If you can read this, thank a teacher." That said, it meant the world to her when a student came up to her years later and told of their accomplishments or what they were currently doing. She always checked the paper for news of her students and every spring we'd go over the list of the local high school grads and she tell me which ones she had, what they were like in elementary school. She was always extremely proud. What a difference a good teacher makes!

mo.stoneskin said...

That was a moving read. So glad that he found something he could naturally do.

otin said...

I often wonder what ever became of some of my teachers, if some are still teaching, even. Sounds like Country Boy turned out ok!

Elizabeth said...

Poor Country Boy.
I'm so glad you were able to give him at least the support of him remembering you told him he was good with his hands.
I'm sure he remembers you with affection.
One of my warmest teaching memories is of a very angry, sad boy who swore horribly. His Mom had two jobs because his dad was in a wheelschair scared mentally and physically. He was yelled at constantly at home.
When asked why he never swore at me he said, "Mrs.Schmid loves me."
I get teary thinking about it.
Am putting your blog on my favorites.

Elizabeth said...

I meant the dad was scarred---probably scared too. The kid was.

Mrs. K said...

oh my. you really make a difference every day woman. and, i'd like to say; i had at least 1 teacher like you and : consider, myself lucky.

remember moments said...

Wow - poor kid. I'm glad to see he is doing well now. I'm afraid I will likely encounter some similar situations once I'm out in the real world again.

Boomka said...

Hey Beth, I love your blog. Even more specifically I love the concept. The only strikethrough effect is fantastic. Very unique. I dig!

M.J. said...

It's nice to know that teachers are effected by their students. Learning should never be a one-way street!

Comedy Goddess said...

I'm crying too! But how lucky he found you, again!

Deb said...

okay, best post ever (or certainly right up there with them. you've had some doozies)!!!!!

and i love country boy even more after reading that he has comma issues. my soul mate.

you made a difference in someone's life. that's pretty powerful, girl.

Michel said...

OMG your story made me cry! I can't even imagine living it.

You totally made a difference in that guy's life. You made him a better person and he credits you for it.

That is truly amazing and uplifting. Obviously, it IS all worth it.

Beth said...

Wow! A bunch of comments! My laptop died today (let us all pause for a moment of silence). So, now I have to borrow my husband's computer. Don't think he won't remind me of this!

Thanks for the sweet comments. It was so awesome to see this kid (now an adult). I've had several former students to get their names in the paper under the Police Beat column - so, it was time for a success story. Unfortunately, they aren't all successes (at least not yet).

Funny Girl Goes Blog said...

Wow, those who teach are so under appreciated in our society. What teachers give to our youth is soooo pricless. Thank you for your service, because you do serve. Everyday you battle for the hearts and minds of our youth. Sooo many are lost and uncertain with no path to follow; what would we do without you and those who like you teach, mentor, and in some cases are the only adult that the child can count on.

Funny Girl Goes Blog said...

P.S. I use way tooo many commas...I really don't know when or why I fell in love with them, but I put them all over the place, even when I know it's wrong. How silly is that?

marathoner81 said...

What an amazing story...I have tears in my eyes. Makes me wish I had a job that touched lives (and touched me back in a completely appropriate way).

Breezy Bride said...

My husband is a first year teacher in a really, really tough school. I can't wait to share this with him. Thanks for passing on the inspirational stories & reminding me why it is all worth it!

Michele said...

Oh wow Beth...what a story! You made such a difference in that boys life. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Hugz,
Michele

nikkicrumpet said...

OH MY GOSH...that is the saddest story. No kid should have to endure that much heart break. It's a really testament to his strength that he made it through all that and became a productive citizen! Good teachers always help!

sherri said...

again, you are making me tear up. great post.

♥ Braja said...

Nice one, Beth :) xx

A Free Man said...

Wow, the story you've told is a reminder of why I like teaching. I teach at the college level, though, so tend not to get as much of the student's stories and tend not to get the really troubled ones. I've got the greates respect for you primary and secondary school teachers.

Kulio said...

ohhhhhh....why is life so easy for some and so hard for others? I don't understand when a child has to face those things.

I'm glad you cried for him. He needed somebody to.

Fragrant Liar said...

OMG. Now see? That is exactly why we need people/teachers like you in our schools. Those kids need you guys more than words and IEPs can ever say. I'm grateful you were there for him, when nobody else really was.