The Reward for Surviving Rough Seas

The Reward for Surviving Rough Seas
We are all like sea shells tossed about in rough waters and being re-shaped in wondrous ways. But have you ever contemplated the notion that sea shells have to complete their journey through the rough waters before they get to rest on the shore? Yeah, we are ALL like sea shells and Heaven is The Great Shore.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Student A

Today I have to talk about something that is weighing on me.
Today I have to write about Student A...he will remain anonymous, but I assure you that he is very very real.

Recently I put my students through a Socratic Seminar; a student engagement strategy designed to get them to look at a "text" and fully process it.

The text in question was a news article about Paterno, Sandusky and the whole Penn State situation.

The story involved an alleged incident in 2002.
It was about the molestation of a young boy by a former Defense Coordinator, a graduate assistant eye witness, the Penn State head football coach, the University President,  and the quintessential question of whether or not proper actions were taken in response to the report of the alleged incident.

I teach at the high school level, which means that the article was age appropriate.
The subject was treated with extreme dignity, but still the topicality was very intense to say the least.
I told my Principal in advance what we would be doing, and she came to watch one of my classes as we went through this process.  She was impressed and told me so.

Every class I teach went through this process. And by the last class I was tired.
Socratic Seminar calls for the teacher to Bring Her A Game... it is not for the faint of heart.

Watching Adolescents struggle to formulate cogent questions and statements is somewhat beautiful.
You have to allow wait time, and sometimes you have to help them by supplying supportive nonverbal messages. But they shine.  They can say remarkably insightful things and ask quite pointed questions.

Running an effective Socratic Seminar is not something to be attempted without preparation.
It is fatiguing for all parties.

But when done well... Socratic Seminar shows TEACHING & LEARNING at their finest!

My Principal observed my students as they examined legal, ethical and moral parameters.
She watched them deliberate compliance to the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law.
Like I said, it really IS impressive.
Too often teenagers can be jerks plain and simple.
But they can also be attentive and quite grown-up given the right set of circumstances.
My kids rose to the occasion for this class.
They were proud of them themselves and had every reason to be.

And the end of each period, the kids and I congratulated ourselves on a really good class.

At the end of the very last class of the day, the final bell rang, everybody left...except one student.

I was exhausted. Ready to be done for the day.
Student A remained in my class slowly walking toward me as if he wanted to talk.

He is a very polite young man with serious eyes.
A good listener.
Slow to speak.
An Athelete
Intelligent, but has a history of performing lower than his aptitude.

As he approached me I saw tears in his eyes.
He said, "What happened to those boys, happened to me."

And he told me his story.

Tear after tear rolled down his face as he told me his story.
And suddenly I wasn't exhausted any more.
This kid needed me.
And I was there.

He told me that from the time he was a little boy until 5th grade that someone in his family molested him.
It was a male family member who ironically had also been molested as a child.

And the cycle went on.

Student A later found out that one of his male cousins had also been molested for years by the same person.
But both boys had suffered in silence for a long time without anybody knowing about it.

This young man told me that the only person he ever told about it was his mom.

The tears rolled down his face as he said,
        "It really messes you up. I mean I don't remember much of my life except THAT part before 5th grade.  I do have ONE memory of having what they said was a panic attack in the 2nd grade. But thats it.  I don't remember my childhood. I have pictures that show that I played sports my whole life but I can't remember it.  I just can't remember it any of it."

The tears kept rolling and he told me more.

      "In 2nd grade there was this one day when I couldn't talk or walk anymore.
I was so scared. I was being hurt but I couldn't tell anybody.
I just kept my fear and my guilt and my pain inside cause I didn't think anybody would believe me.
That day I stepped into the hallway at school and then I just froze.
I couldn't move or speak.
I couldn't say my name.
They called my mom and she took me to the emergency room.
The doctor at the hospital gave me two Motrin and sent me home.
All I know is that I was afraid and I didn't know what to do.
And I froze.
Now I am STILL quiet and when people tell me to speak up louder I can't.
I am afraid that if I talk at all, it will all come out and I will cry, just like now.
I cry.
I can't stop crying.
I froze again this week.
A teacher in the hall asked me my name and I couldn't tell her.
I just handed her my student ID card, cause I couldn't talk
Mrs, I got scared again. It hasn't happened in a long time, but it happened this week.
And I knew I could talk to you.
I knew you would listen."

He went on to tell me that for years he wondered if this meant he would turn out gay. He told me that he's not, but that his cousin is. And he said he thinks that it is because of what happened to them both.

He said he'd been in jail before because one of his female cousins got raped by her step-father too and when he found out about it, he went to the mans house and beat him nearly to death.

Student A said that a few years ago he started doing "weed" to try to help him deal with what was going on in his head. He said that he got in with a bad crowd, got into alot of trouble and that eventually his mom couldn't cope with him anymore...and that's why he is with his dad now instead of his mom.

He told me that since he had to leave his mom, that he has nobody to talk with about everything that happened.... and he just can't handle it anymore...and is going to beg his mom to let him come back home.

The conversation then took a bit of a turn.
I thought he was going to continue telling me about his history, but he came back present time.

He looked me in the eye and said "Thank you for pushing me to get my work done."
He told me that the day I posted "Do or do not, there is no try." by Yoda, (as our Thought For The Day) it changed his life.

He told me that I inspired him to get his work done.

Apparently his dad had been amazed at watching him type out a  manuscript speech and it caused them to have a talk about the quote by Yoda...and then his dad said, "Son I am proud of you."

Student A said, "I have never worked so hard for a grade in my life."

He also told me that he was pretty sure that he would be leaving to go back to his moms house before Thanksgiving, and that basically he was saying goodbye to me.

I stood there.
I listened.
And I asked God to give me the right words to say to this young man.

I told Student A that he was stronger than he realized and that one day he would be able to help somebody else BECAUSE of what he had gone through.
He thanked me, and then went through the door and into the hallway.
I watched him walk away.

I prayed some more.
And I prayed all through the rest of the evening.
And in my dreams I saw the tear stained face of a little boy who had been raped....and I woke up.

And I prayed yet once more.

I realize that God put me in the classroom to help kids.
I realize that He made me one of those teachers who kids talk to.
I remember a post I wrote, in this very blog, about how Teaching was Mission Work.
And another post in which I mentioned being a tired Servant.

And no wonder I am tired.

What teachers do is huge.
We do hard work
And for Christian teachers, there is the added element of doing daily battle with the evil one.

And I know why this Servant has been has been so tired.

The evil one would like nothing better than for me to stop teaching, to stop healing hearts, to stop touching lives, and to stop doing God's Work.

But here I am...still in the classroom...after all these years.


...And Still Healing Hearts, Touching Lives, and doing God's Work in a Public School.

By the Grace of God, I TEACH!

Student A doesn't know that I will carry him in my prayers to Jehovah's throne room  for years to come.

But I will.

I thank God that I am a Teacher!

In Him,


Harriet said...

I thank God your a teacher too! Thank you for the encouragement of your blog.

Grace said...

Thank you for reading it :)...and thank you for being YOU!