Wednesday, June 11, 2008

When They Surprise You

The first group of seventh graders that I taught at The School will be seniors in high school this next year. I promised myself that when they started to graduate, I'd be going to graduations, just to see these kids get their diplomas. They were a pretty memorable group, both in good ways and in bad ways and in sad ways.

Talky Girl had a baby her sophmore year, but amazingly enough, she's still on the honor roll, the flag team and is going to make it to college. Another, Phillip, died in a drowning accident two years ago and I still think of him when I drive over the bridge near where he drowned. His sister was in Mrs. Eagle's class this year and looked so much like him that it would sometimes nearly startle me when I'd see her. I miss him still. Another, apparently, will be spending his senior year behind bars in a youth detention facility.

And then there's Motormouth Boy.

Motormouth Boy was a skinny kid with big glasses who could not, for the life of him, shut up. He came to us in late fall from a local private church school. His parents had decided that their children needed more exposure to the real world, and they'd heard good things about The School, so they enrolled them. After a week with Motormouth Boy I was wondering if maybe he hadn't been asked to leave the previous school. This kid had something to say about everything and anything. He'd talk to a wall, given the opportunity. He still holds the record for the fastest return to isolation island of any student I've ever had. I'd had him in an isolation seat, he'd been good, did his work, and earned his way out. It lasted under five minutes. He spent a lot of time in trouble and knew Mrs. Squirrel quite well as she tended to end up with his referrals. He was a regular in ISS.

I had his sister two years later. I didn't realize that she was his sister for two months (very common last name). She was one of the hardest working children I've ever seen, very quiet, very studious, and would beam when you gave her a compliment. She mentioned to me one day that I'd had her brother, Motormouth, and I about fell over. I couldn't believe that this quiet, well-mannered child was related to Motormouth, and chalked it up to the fact that she couldn't get a word in edge-wise.

This past May we had the traditional 8th grade dance which I always volunteer to work at since I get a kick seeing all the good kids dressed up and trying to act to sophisticated. It's a real big deal to them, and a lot of times parents tag along for a little bit to get photos and to see how nice everyone looks. Motormouth's sister was there, looking lovely, and her parents were there as well as a very nice looking young man.

"Mrs. Bluebird, I bet you don't remember me," the young man said.

I didn't recognize him, but I knew that voice! It was Motormouth!

"Oh my gosh!" I said. "Look at you!" Motormouth was no longer the gawky, geeky, dweeby, seventh grader. He had matured into a very well mannered, well-dressed, attractive young man.

His Dad piped up, "He's on the honor roll now! Can you believe it! After all the trouble we had in middle school?"

Motormouth looked embarrassed. "Yeah, I'm doing a lot better. Had to grow up, I guess."

We had a nice long chat. Motormouth is going to maintain his grades and is planning on doing something with computers in the Air Force. His Dad is a Marine (as there is no such thing as "was" a Marine), and he credits having his father as a strong role model to help him get over the middle school bump. His parents were positively beaming.

It's so gratifying to run into your former students and hear how they've managed to grow up. I honestly worry about quite a few of them, wondering if they'll make it in this world. Motormouth was one of them. However, with strong family support (he does, after all, have his Dad there to help him and many of my students don't), he did okay.

I'm so proud of him.


The Vegas Art Guy said...

And THAT makes it ALL worthwhile. I can't wait for the day when my former students come to see me. Soon, I hope, very soon...

Darren said...

Now *that* is one of those "teacher stories" we all love to hear! Thanks for posting it.