Sunday, January 22, 2012

Do you believe in your "problem" students?

Two nights ago, I was driving home after a long day at the school. After overseeing the night's athletic events, I left for home around 9pm. I called my sweet and supportive wife to tell her I'd be home soon after I stopped to fill up my gas tank. I actually did not make it home until just before midnight. Why? Yes, you guessed it. I ran out of gas. My gas tank started sputtering while on the interstate just 3 miles before my gas station's exit. I nursed it one extra mile before stopping in utter frustration. I just wanted to be home and rest. I resolved to get out of the car, shed my suit jacket along with my tie and run/walk two miles in 40 degree temperatures until I reached my destination. Once I arrived at a Shell station 45 minutes later and was loaned a gas can, I began to fill the gas can up and return to my abandoned car. As I finished filling up the can, a voiced called out, "hey, man... Everything okay?" I looked up with red cheeks, a sniffling nose, and a look of fatigue and lied. I said, "yeah, everything's okay." Too embarrassed, I just thought I'd fake it. The voice was a 21 year old named Matt. Relentlessly, Matt asked another question, "do you need a ride somewhere?" I decided to be real and admit my blunder. "Yeah, I actually ran out of gas two miles from here." Without hesitation, Matt said, "get in and I will give you a ride." In our ten minute ride back to my car, I discovered Matt was a local guy. He asked me what I did for a living, I confessed with embarrassment, "this schmoe is actually an assistant principal here in the area." With some bit of surprise, Matt said, "you would have seen a lot of me when I was in school. I was always in the principal's office. I was a terrible student." I replied, "well, Matt... It looks like you turned out alright." He responded, "yeah, I am trying. I am working three jobs right now and trying to get into a community college next year. I try to do good for others and do one good deed a day." I looked at him and said, "Well, thanks for this good deed. Thanks for your help." This got me thinking. I wonder what Matt's teachers thought of him when he was in school. I wonder what his principal thought of him when he was repeatedly in their office after making bad choices. I am sure Matt had caring teachers and I actually know his former principals and know for a fact they are good people, but I am sure it crossed their mind... "will he ever get it?" I think Matt has "got it." Will you join me the next time you conference, correct, teach, review expectations, etc. with the "Matt's" of the world? Let's think of how they CAN be when they are out of school, not just limit our frustrations to the present frustrations. How many students are out there who "cut up" one day only to make a HUGE positive impact on society ten years down the road? I certainly have appreciated and benefitted from fresh starts and I think Matt has tOo. This week, as you inevitably get frustrated with "that student" just remember he or she could greet you on a cold, January night when you really need them. Tomorrow's problem student might be next week's savior!

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