The Lives You Touch
T came in midyear, while I was in mid-crisis and slowly finding my stride in my first year of teaching. It was obvious that T didn’t want to be in school, and when I spoke to him about it he made it clear that school attendance was to keep his probation officer at bay only, and actual school work was not on the menu. I wasn’t exactly looking for another mission, amongst the sinking ship that was my 9th grade class, so I let it go and struck a deal that he’d stay half the day, and refrain from disrupting working students, and we’d get along fine. And we *did* get along well. He was a decent kid, respectful and rarely got into fights or verbal battles; but since he wasn’t part of my working class, I didn’t pay him much mind other than if he was there and if he was leaving working students alone. Sometimes T would complete an assignment on his own, and thus become a bleep on my teacher-radar, but mostly he just hung out in my room.
So imagine my surprise when today, a year later, T called me from the psychiatric center on his way to prison until 2009. The shock of the phone call didn’t come from my student being incarcerated (sadly, that doesn’t surprise me anymore) rather that I didn’t think my relationship with him warranted him reaching out. Nonetheless we chatted briefly about the “scuffle” that ended him in jail and his plans once he got out. He called to tell me he wrote me a letter, and to expect it soon. T wanted to know if he could be in my class when he got out if he promised to do work. I was touched, but confused. I wanted to ask him “Why me?” but my class was watching me expectantly, and I had to go back to my lesson.
It goes to show, that as a teacher, you may not always be aware of the lives you touch.