Thursday, May 10, 2007

Endless Possibilities

Usually I drive the convertible, the HOT car. After all, I’m a HOT mama age 40, and I deserve to whip around town in my HOT automobile. Wind through my hair, sun on my skin, I do HOT things, like grocery shopping and dropping off the dry cleaning. On Monday I let the spouse take the HOT car and I had to drive the minivan. Depleted of fuel, filthy inside and out, and in need of an oil change, I decided to take it over to the lube and wash place.

Waiting under the awning, a tall young man with a very familiar face approached me. What an awkward feeling. I know it was a former student, but I taught him 8 years ago, when he was a fourth grader. Here stood before me a strapping guy with a hauntingly familiar face. A face I don’t forget, but the names sometimes elude me. I told him some things I remembered about him: his brother who always got in more trouble than he did, how he loved to play percussion instruments in music class, how his cursive writing made my eyes hurt. Clearly I remembered him, but not necessarily his name.

He finally told me his name, and I asked this soon-to-be high school graduate what he plans to do with the rest of his life starting after next Friday’s ceremony. He’ll turn 18 that day too, he told me, and come October he's going to become a daddy. His “baby mama” girl’s picture was the screensaver on his cell phone. She’s cute, I told him, and erroneously asked how long they were going together. Wrong. He was only “with” his baby mama one time, but they get along really great. He’s even going with her for the sonogram appointment and he gets to name the baby if it’s a boy. Oy. TMI.

This bright, clever, young boy, as I remembered him, had a devil streak at age 10, and evidently that had blossomed. He told me that he had gotten into some trouble, so he’d be working for a while before he started college for cosmetology. Working construction, then part time for tips as a dry boy at the car wash, he’d support his new baby and put off school for a while.

What could I say? I’d wished for more for you? As your 4th grade teacher, I envisioned endless possibilities for the futures of my young charges, and this was something less? Could I tell him that he was making mistakes? That his failure to go on with his education straight away may plague him throughout his adult life? That sharing a child with a baby mama was tough on the baby, the mama, and you, and how-could-you-do –this- to –your- life? Of course not.

I told him to take good care of himself, of his brain, and of this little baby. I told him that I was happy to see him alive, well, and taking responsibility. I told him that I really liked being his teacher so many years ago. What I didn’t tell him was that that I was mourning the loss of the ten-year-old boy with the wiggly cursive and the devil streak, the one with endless possibilities ahead of him.


MJ said...

Oh, that gives me chills. As you know, I often write about former student encounters and I've had ones like this. Sometimes what we dream for them is so much bigger than their dreams for themselves. Maybe that's why I'm ambivalent about student encounters; they're not always what we'd imagined they would be.

Cora Spondence said...

I've had similar encounters with former students and all you can do is hope that they choose wisely for the rest of the road that's ahead of them. That's the thing when they leave your classroom, you always want someone looking out for them and many times, those kids are on their own. But you never know what the next ten years will bring. Have faith.

Anonymous said...

As teachers, we dream big for our students. We also assess their abilities and personalities and hope against all hopes that they mature and grow appropriately. Sometimes, they surprise us. The "doomed for McDonalds" comes by with an acceptance letter to UF. Or the next "Tony award-winning actor" visits you to tell you he is leaving for Iraq in a week.
All we can do is hope that each of them takes a little piece of us with them where ever they go.