Sunday, July 20, 2008


John graduated from Packemin HS in 1995. When I first met him, I thought he was kind of slow, but a really nice kid. I never called his home because he appeared to be working to capacity so why stress his mom and dad. He did manage to pass and I was able to put him in a double period class where he could get extra help.

I ended up being the teacher of this double period class and got to know John and his two buddies completely. I found that these three ninth grade boys were not slow, but were not interested in school either. They lived and breathed baseball. They dreamt of opening up a surf shop together in South Beach. I encouraged their dreams and also stressed their education so they would have something to fall back on, just in case. I even took my son to cheer them on as they played on the junior varsity team in a nearby park.

By coincidence, John ended up in my class the following year. He still was not much of a worker and I picked on him and pushed him to work and that he did. He passed Sequential Math I, II and III. He graduated and went on to a community college. After 4 years, he decided to become a history teacher and came back to Packemin to do his observations. He begged his advisor to be allowed to sit in my math class, rather than a history class and the advisor agreed. He said, he wanted to be just like me when he started teaching. (Pity his poor students.) Once again, I was calling on John, along with the rest of my class.

Fast forward two more years, John is now graduating college and about to become a teacher. Again, coincidentally, his mom is a para at Packemin. I am so happy that I send John a check for $25 to celebrate his graduation. John frames it instead of cashing it.

It is now 2008, 13 years since John graduated from high school and 17 years since I first met him. John got married this weekend. His two friends from high school were there. Only in New York would a kid from the Philippines have best friends from Columbia and Pakistan. My husband and I were invited to the wedding banquet. I felt honored to have been invited after all the years that passed. John even had a picture of the two of us in his slide show. I had tears in my eyes as I saw this wonderful young man enter the room with his beautiful bride.

Some people would have written the three of them off years ago. All three are big successes. John teaches history and although he never made it to the major league, he coaches his school's varsity baseball team. One of the boys is a computer geek and earns big $$$$$ doing IT stuff and the other is in charge of all the stores of a major retailer in the New York area. I'm glad I never gave up on them.

This was my first Chinese Banquet dinner. Although there was nothing that I could eat (not kosher), it was an event to remember. At 5:30 a buffet table opened. At 6:30 the guests took their seats and platter after platter was brought out. I think there were ten courses. The last one before dessert was lobsters. My husband said it was the best food he has ever eaten. All I know is that I have never seen so much food in one place before.


tamaraeden said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I have only been teaching for a little under four years, but I do hope I have these experiences down the road.

I have been invited to a couple of quincineras but haven't gone. I run into my current and past students often because I live in the same neighborhood where I work. There is something very special about kids saying hi or being happy to see you when not in school. It's not my husband's favorite thing but it's one of the many things that makes teaching worthwhile.

17 (really 15) more years said...

The change in kids is even more profound when you have them in middle school and then see them, 8 or 9 years later, on their way to becoming self-sufficient members of society.

The first year I taught, I had a student who was a holy terror. He tortured EVERYBODY- especially his poor single mother, who worked at the local post office and shuddered in fear whenever she saw one of her son's teachers.

Fast forward: D came back to do his student teaching with us, and is now a PE teacher in a large local Catholic high school. I hear he is very strict, and has the respect of students and colleagues alike.

Anonymous said...

Some people would have tested them to death and determined them to be failures.