At the end of my posts I generally come up with a conclusion. It feels right to tie things up, even if it’s with a question. I never know what the conclusion will be when I start, but I know that it will be there. That, in fact, is one of the reasons why I write—so I can figure out what I’m thinking or to develop the threads of consciousness into a coherent thought. But today’s post is different. Today I won’t even try for that ‘aha.’ Today I just want to present a few students who I observed recently.
Ned. When I was walking around the school on my way back to my classroom, I saw a student I had four years ago, when he was a freshman. I asked him how he was doing. He shrugged. Then I asked if he was going to graduate. He said he wasn’t sure, that he hadn’t been to school for a long time. To say that he looked high is an understatement. Mind you I am not someone with well-developed high sensors, but there was no mistaking it with Ned. It was deflating.
When I had Ned in the ninth grade when he was a mini-punk, but there was a sharp satiric sense that I tried to develop—to show him that he was appreciated for his wit and intelligence.
I saw his current English teacher later; she said that he had been dropped from school because it has been so long since he had been to school.
Dave. Today a select group of students gave presentations about the service projects that they had done as part of their graduation requirement. Dave was late. No, Dave was not late. Dave, in a tee shirt and shorts, came late to say that he can’t present because he couldn’t transfer his presentation to a CD. And no, he didn’t have a flash drive. So a student who was selected to advance to this final round didn’t care enough to problem-solve a PowerPoint presentation from computer A to computer B.
William. This student, who wore a suit and who managed to get his presentation in a format that could be used, had a very bad stutter. But the show went on. He stood there in front of the judges and a small audience and gave his presentation. And it was tough to hear how hard it was for him to speak. But it was also a powerful testament to himself and those around him that he had the confidence in himself to be himself and was recognized for that.
Yvonne. When she came to class today, after her presentation, she told me how nervous she had been. I told her that I had not noticed that and if so, it was understandable. Not only did she need to overcome her shyness, but her presentation focuses on her illness. She laid herself out there—talking about her disease, how it had been treated and where, and then how, a few years later, she went back to the hospital where she had been treated to entertain other sick children to give back what she had gotten.
Eleanor. This student talked about her project, which was to train a young autistic man for the Special Olympics. Her admiration for him was evident in both her presentation and the video she showed. Watching those five minutes of her interacting with him and other young people in a gym made me proud just to be there listening to her. The capacity for some people to give so much of themselves is a humbling experience for those of us who seem to always remain in our self-contained bubble.
Jessica. And there was Jessica who was so bubbly that her presentation was less guided by her note cards than it was a ride along her personality. The enthusiasm she had for teaching children and for her future were palpable. She didn’t even seem to be impressed by the work she had done; she was riding on the sheer pleasure she seemed to freely give.
And when I came home, I was confronted by my very own teen. My younger daughter slammed and locked her door in my face. I really hope that her in-public persona has not been ravaged by her teen anti-mommy angst.
I don’t know what this generation will be called by those who are older and think they are so wise, wise enough to think that they can confine a non-existent group of people into some kind of box, boxed in by their own expectations or failures. All I can say (shoot, I’m summing up) is that I wish every child could reach his or her ladder and that the only way to go is up—up into fulfillment, and up into health, and up into joy given and received.