He was kicked out of middle school for bringing a weapon in the building, and rightly so.
He’s expected to keep up at school after pacing the floors with his screaming infant half the night, and rightly so.
He was arrested for doing something illegal about 6 months ago, and rightly so.
I screamed with joy when he walked across the stage tonight, and rightly so.
This semester I’ve been teaching at an alternative high school. Community members tend to describe this school as “where the bad kids go.” I’ve heard that more than once. When a student at this school does every assignment on the spot, responds with some enthusiasm, enjoys coming to your class, defends your honor when another student is having a bad day, jumps in to help teach those who are struggling… Actually, I don’t care what school you’re at. You’d love to teach him, right?
I loved teaching Z, and I’m rooting for him. He’s one of my favorites of all the kids I’ve taught. I love them all, I like most, and I work hard to treat each one fairly. (I think it’s actually harmful to the “nice” kids when you let them slide too much because they’re nice, but that’s another post for another day.) It’s just that some touch your heart a little differently than others, and that’s okay. Alongside the planned lessons, we jammed out to John Mayer a hundred times, we discussed infant earache symptoms, and I got a fist bump every time he came into class. He’d already had a serious change of heart by the time I met him. Prison will do that to you, according to him. If you’d heard Z a few weeks ago preaching at a younger student headed down the same path, you’d have wanted to high five everything in sight, and you’d know in your heart that he has a real chance at succeeding. He has serious plans for the near future, which I’ll keep confidential at this time for his sake.
Right before he walked across the stage, he turned around and grabbed my hand in a kind of part handshake, part hug. I wanted to jump up on the auditorium chair and yell, “Y’ALL! DO YOU EVEN KNOW?!” At that point in my daydream, I would begin rambling in the way I tend to do when I’m feeling passionate. I’d tell them that I don’t care if lots of people think it’s uncouth to whoop and holler at a graduation; let’s tear the place down for this kid! Cue the Kool and the Gang, turn on the fog machine, fade to black.
It’s risky to be excited for him. He’s not entirely out of the woods. But that risk was overwhelmed by joy last night, so when he shook hands with the principal and took hold of the paper declaring his accomplishment, I got uncouth with everybody else who saw the beauty in second chances.
Have you ever rooted for someone who wasn’t expected to succeed?