Fifteen years ago, I was a teaching assistant at our alternative placement junior high. When I first went to the school to sub, I had no idea that the place even existed, that there would be a special campus for the kids who got into too much trouble at their home campuses. Maybe that's why I fell in love with those "bad" kids so quickly. I never had a chance to see them as the misbegotten.
That three month experience set the foundation for my teaching career. I tend to do very well with those kids who have been labeled bad for more years than they can even remember. I have a soft spot for them, for showing them that they are lovable and can be successful. I want them to do well. I want them to know that someone will support them.
J. was one of those kids. I knew his reputation from seventh grade, but I did not care about that. Kids change drastically from seventh to eighth grade. J. still put up some fights when he came to my class. He would try to sleep in class. We would argue. He would refuse to do work. I would prompt and prompt and prompt. He would storm out of class. I would write referrals. He spent some time suspended. I always let him come back like it was no big deal. I never gave up on him because I would see those moments of intelligence shine through.
J. was one of those students who could never understand why my formers would come back to see me or why they would email me or why they would ask me to be a reference for a job. To him, I was nothing more than a middle school teacher who would pass in and out of his life.
At 12:30 this afternoon, J's name showed up in my school email inbox. I was taken aback because I had been speaking about him a week earlier with a former student teacher (one whom J. had a huge crush on). Before opening the message, I assumed it was going to be a spam link or someone else with the same name. My assumption could not be farther from the truth.
This is the reason I teach. He came back.