Regardless of our professions, we all hold memories of special people and events. That is especially true when teachers start to share their stories, usually about individual students and sometimes about classes that, if we were lucky, were pure magic for the entire year. Those classes were few and far between, but they were the reason we got up and raced to work every morning.
I was recently chatting with my Sister Suzanna and we got on the subject of kids and classes. She recalled a magical class from her early years in the profession. When June rolled around, the students complimented her with you’ve been just like my sister. Fast forward and another perfect class appeared, this time with the closing appreciation of you’ve been just like my mother. In her final year of teaching, yet another special class appeared and her kids surrounded her voicing, you’ve been just like my grand — Stop right there, there is no need to finish that sentence.
I remember both individual students and some very special classes. I still recall one young girl who walked into our Healthy Start/School Linked Services offices late on a Friday afternoon. She was leaning on her sister, crying and seeking help. I ushered her back to a young therapist, who quickly came back to my office and said this was out of her area of expertise.
The four of us sat down in my office. The girl was pregnant, certain her parents would kill her and wanted an abortion. We calmed her and made her an appointment with Planned Parenthood, knowing that she was well past the point of any abortion. We also up future appointments with a therapist in our center so she could be supported in the future months.
Four months later, she gave birth to a beautiful little boy and, in large part due to the expertise at Planned Parenthood, had the full support of her family.
I wish her story had ended there, but it didn’t. Six months later, I received word that the young girl and her boyfriend had been killed, bound and shot execution style in the back of their heads. I recall something about drugs or gangs, but that’s all rather vague. I just remember thinking that it was such a loss, especially to their infant. I have no idea what happened to the child, except that he’s now a grown man and, hopefully, on a much better path than his parents.
Those are the students that continue to haunt — what didn’t we know and what could have we done?
Those memories are balanced by the classes and students that made every day magical. There was one very special Sophomore English class where every day was a delight. Alas, I had arranged to take a leave of absence the second semester to join the soon-to-be ex in Pennsylvania. The kids and I grew more heartbroken as moving day loomed.
The class had a surprise party the last day before the winter break and my leaving. They had food (of course), thank you cards, speeches and gave me a beautiful delicate gold bracelet that I still have. We were all in tears.
At the end of the day, I walked out to the faculty parking lot. Standing next to my car was one of my students. He was the shy, polite student-athlete who sat in the back of the room and earned excellent grades. He was on the cusp of becoming a very handsome young man and many of the girls already had crushes on him, although he seemed oblivious to it all.
I started to ask him what he needed, but he beat me to it, blurting out, But you can’t leave! I’m in love with you!
oh my, if he had only been 30 years older and a few years later…