Yesterday a piece of yesteryear walked into my classroom.
My class had just returned from music, and they were settling down to begin our weekly meeting when the door opened, and in walked a student who’d been a part of my class five years ago.
I’d seen this young man from time to time when driving home, or on an errand. We’d both waved, but I hadn’t had words with him since he’d been in my class as a ruddy-faced twelve year-old. As he stood before me I was taken back to a vision of he and his friend during a three-legged race on field day, he’d stumbled and fallen; his friend picked him up on his back and finished the race with this boy hanging off his shoulders—and laughing the whole way.
The boy of yesteryear hadn’t changed with the exception of being a little bit taller—all right, a lot taller, and the faint traces of a mustache gracing his upper lip. Also, when he spoke it was evident that his voice had lowered just a bit, but he was still that kid I remembered from my classroom so long ago.
I recalled the difficulty he’d had in school, the times he’d struggled to complete assignments on time, and the hours I worked with him after school to get him caught up. There were days he completely exhausted me... but if I’m honest, I’d have to admit that I loved every minute of working with him.
While my current class of students continued with the complements portion of the meeting, this young man and I talked for a few minutes.
“I’m going to graduate high school a year early, Mr. Z.”
“Really?” I responded. “How are you planning to do that?”
The boy smiled sheepishly. “I decided to take extra classes and fewer electives to get the credits I need to graduate.”
I blew out a breath, “That must have been quite an undertaking.”
He grinned as he told me of the lessons of hard work he’d learned as a sixth grader, and how well prepared he was now. “After being in your sixth grade class, high school is easy.” He chuckled, and after a few more minutes’ talk, he agreed to have a little chat with my class about his story of working hard, and doing what you should.
When the class finished the meeting and had returned to their desks, I introduced him. He stood and his voice was a bit quiet at first, but grew rapidly with confidence as he told them the benefits of working hard and doing what you’re supposed to. He told them about endurance and always trying your best.
“When I first started the sixth grade, Mr. Z asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I think I said something like, ‘I want to be a video game tester.’ But that’s not what I’m going to do…I’m going to be a pilot or a lawyer. I’m going to do something with my life.”
I couldn’t have been more proud of this boy as he answered a few questions from my class and then told me he needed to go. I told my students to take out their math assignments and we’d start to correct them. As he turned to leave, this young man gave me a hug and said he’d be back to visit again.
Then he was out the door as quietly as he’d slipped in.
Though we corrected our assignment and did the math lesson for the day, my mind kept slipping back to this boy—now a young man of seventeen—who’d made a change; one who’d decided somewhere along the lines that being ‘okay’ or average was simply not good enough. A kid who realized that college is vital in today’s society. A boy who’d been carried during those critical moments of adolescence by parents, teachers, and friends during those times that were the most influential.
I don’t think I could be any more proud of him.