As a teacher, one of the things that as always been in the back of my mind is the fear that one day I'll open the paper and see one of my former students on the front page. Granted, I would love to see one of them on the front page for doing heroic and wonderful things, but let's be honest...that's usually not the kind of story you see first thing in the morning over your cup of very strong black coffee. The media loves death and destruction (sort of like most seventh graders) and that's what you get.
And unfortunately, that's what I got this morning when I checked the online version of the local paper and read about two teenaged boys who had gone missing last night while swimming in a local creek and were fear drowned.
And since I know where that creek is (right smack in the middle of our school zone) I had this horrible feeling that I'd recognize at least one of the names.
And I did.
It was Philipp.
Philipp isn't going to get a nickname from me because, quite honesty, I couldn't come up with one that truly encompasses all that Philipp was as a kid and a person. And I say was, sadly, because his body was recovered around midnight last night, so Philipp is gone.
And I can't tell you how awful that makes me feel.
Philipp was in my first crop of seventh graders when I started my first year down here. My first year as a real, full-time, seventh grade teacher in my very own room. I had 135 kids that year and out of all of them, Philipp was probably the one that stood out the most. He was funny, extremely funny, and witty and bright although he'd rather play sports and video games than study.
Every day I'd walk my fourth period to lunch and every single day Philipp would jump up and try to touch the ceiling as we walked through the portal to the cafeteria. And every day I would tell him to stop doing that because it was dangerous, and he'd just smile at me and laugh.
We loved to get Philipp to talk because his stories were always interesting and funny. He was actually German and didn't move to the U.S. until he was about ten or so, when his mother married an American soldier. He had wonderful stories about what it was like to go to school in Europe and vacation in places like Spain. The other reason we liked to have him talk was because he spoke with a slight German accent laced with a little touch of Southern (you had to hear this to appreciate it!)
When he was in eighth grade he was having some major problems with his language arts class and I volunteered to tutor him because I had a good relationship with Philipp - don't get me wrong, he could be a handful and drive you up a wall, but he still had a good heart. He was pretty good at math so I'd tutor him in Language Arts and he'd help my seventh graders in math which they just loved because he made it fun.
He was, in short, a kid I would have taken home in a minute and would have been proud to call my own. He was everything you'd want your own kids to be.
I will, truly, miss him.
Bless you Philipp. You touched many hearts.