|image from icanread|
A teacher contacts me at the beginning of the year at their wits end; they have this one student, you know the one, the one that doesn’t listen, the one with the rap sheet miles long even though they are just in 5th grade. That student that smiles and laughs and then turns deadly the moment you turn your back. yeah that one is now in their room and this teacher tries everything. Throughout the year we share tips and ideas, what if’s and have you tried’s. Sometimes there are small victories but most often the honeymoon is over before it began. At the end of the year the teacher is exhausted and the student is about the same except maybe taller, faster, and even more hellbent on saying no and getting their way.
Over the summer I hear once more from the teacher, this time telling me that the student had been in trouble with police. Something minor but still a gateway to worse, a gateway to things we so diligently try to shield our kids from. What comes next floors me; “I’m not surprised, just thought it would happen later, that’s all…” The words form a rope around my neck and I feel myself at a loss for words. I don’t know how to answer that, not then, but now I do. You should be surprised! You should be shocked that any kid decides to go down that path. We should never lose our surprise when students, kids, make bad decisions. I don’t care what path they were on in our classrooms. I don’t care how destructive they may have come off as. We should be surprised when they make terrible decisions and not just say, “See, I knew it would happen…”
I know this may be idealistic and perhaps I have one foot in utopia, but yet, we have to be surprised when our students fail our expectations. We have to be surprised when they wander into dangerous territory and make poor decisions. Be surprised when all of our hard work, all of our efforts, don’t seem to make a difference. Someone has to keep believing in these kids, even the ones we think are lost. Even the ones that give us the hardest time, sometimes, because after all, they are the ones that need it the most. So stay surprised and keep believing.