Having taught high school English for five and a half years, I had the pleasure of attempting to educate nearly 800 students. While I didn’t succeed at educating some of them, I certainly did succeed at getting to know my students and loving them with all my heart.
When I was teaching, I didn’t allow students to be my friends on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, for obvious reasons. But now that I’m not teaching, I’ll allow it (unless the kid was super creepy). Social media has given me the opportunity to see what my former students are up to.
Some make me smile.
Others devastate me.
I smile when I see the class clown as a Marine. So serious, so important, so driven.
I smile when I see that students who struggled to pass my English class are now graduating from college.
I smile when I see the heartbreaker has found the love of his life and is getting married.
I smile when I see the jock getting ready to open his own barber shop.
I smile when I see the yearbook editor doing mission work overseas.
Then there are the others.
I am sad when I see they’re doing drugs.
I am sad when I see them have kid, after kid, after kid.
I am sad when I see they pride themselves in being “thugs.”
I am sad when I see they love to advertise the fact that they have guns- and aren’t afraid to use them.
I am sad when I see that they clearly think that’s what life has to be like.
And then there’s the one you invested so much time in, only to see him a complete disaster down the road. I’ve seen my fair share of former students in the news, and not for good reasons.
If you’re a teacher who has a heart for the “bad” kids, you know who I’m talking about. For me, there was one specific “bad” kid I cared about so much my first two years teaching in Georgia. He won my heart over the first day of school. He even eventually got the reputation of “Miss Trout’s favorite.” He was a mess, no one believed in him, no one saw the good in him, but I did. Despite the fact that he was a drug dealer and whatever else he did outside of school, I loved him like he was my little brother. And I was going to save him.
One of the hardest things I had to learn in teaching was that you can’t save them all. While that doesn’t mean you stop trying to “save” all the ones who need it, it means you have to know you tried your best to make an impact on someone’s life and how they turn out but that sometimes… you don’t.
I shed so many tears over this kid when I was his English teacher for two years. He was never rude or disrespectful to me. Well, if he was, he’d be back later that day to apologize. I didn’t let him get away with things. I wrote my fair share of office referrals for the kid. But for some reason, I never stopped caring about him. Even when I moved back to my home state of Indiana, hundreds of miles away, I prayed for him. Still do.
And then a few weeks ago I saw on his friend’s Instagram, a photo of him with the words under it, “Free Marquez” (name has been changed). My heart dropped. I knew right away it had to do with drugs. The journalist in me did my research, though. It was much more than drugs.
There were actually six charges. Two of which were armed robbery and aggravated assault.
It made me cry. Was I completely crazy to ever believe this kid had a chance? I knew his home life. I knew the people he ran with. I knew that not long after I left Georgia, he dropped out of school. So why am I so shocked?
Because my heart is broken.
One of the things America has seen recently in the wake of what happened in Newtown is the fact that teachers love their students. They would do anything for them. As crazy as they are, as out of control as they are, as completely hopeless they sometimes are, teachers love their students. No matter what.
You would think this makes me give up on Marquez. What could possibly change now? Plenty. Here’s where my spiritual gift of Mercy comes in, and my faith in God. I’m still going to pray for him. I’m still going to believe that one day he’ll fix his life. He might not, and I might never know what happens to him. But I’m not giving up. Teachers don’t give up.
I might not be a teacher anymore according to the state of Indiana, but in heart I will always be a teacher. I still refer to my former students as my “kids.” Like a mother, I’m very proud of so many of them. Words can’t express how proud I am! And like a mother, I love my “kids” unconditionally. No matter what he’s done, that includes Marquez.