Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cumulative Care

It was ten years ago when I walked into my first year of an almost-brand-new charter school to teach ninth grade Socratic Seminar. I had some of the brightest minds, and because it was an alternative choice to public school, I had a few minds that had failed elsewhere, and this school was a second chance for a few unmotivated, resistant-to-learning, resistant-to-attending-school, students.

 I loved them all.

It was also my job to save them all.

Saving meant: to inspire them, to educate them, to make sure they knew how to read and write proficiently, to make sure they enjoyed the process.

It's a lot to take on.

I still do--try to save them all, but I've learned it's not entirely my job. I do my best and hope the student will partake of, will join in, will even reciprocate to that best.

Recently, I found one of those resistant students who is now a manager at my local grocery store. When we realized who each other was (we've both aged), we greeted one another with a big, big hug. I still loved this boy. This man.

Yesterday, when I ran into him again, after a fist bump and a few pleasant exchanges, he asked for an update on my life. When he pushed for details, I shared, and our conversation delved into the importance of cultural awareness and the importance of travel. He paused and said, "I wish I could go back and participate in a Socratic discussion right now."

I too wished we could've have turned back time and returned to all he'd missed because his timing wasn't quite right.

I remembered how much I'd cared about him. When I'd discovered he didn't have some necessary writing skills, I brought in the librarian to work with him and a few other students.

Ten years later, standing in the grocery store, it wasn't the right moment to tell him how I'd worried and cared for him, but I did tell him about someone else who did.

"Do you remember the counselor? Ms. O?"

He didn't, but she'd set up an audition for him that would have opened doors.

"She really cared about you."

He doesn't know what to say.

It may not have mattered to him ten years ago, but it matters now. The care was there and on a subconscious level he knew. He couldn't receive it, but it was surrounding him, even protecting him.

Care is cumulative. It builds around the shield, the impenetrable wall, and one day the pressure, like water behind a cracked dam wall,  pushes through. The stubborn child, the resistant student, allows the love to finally foster his growth. He allows himself to become.

The caring, though rejected, mattered all along. Tremendously.

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