Power of the Paw



The last time I saw Andre it was June 2000, and he was 14 years old headed off to high school with big dreams. I had the privilege of teaching Andre language arts and social studies his 8th grade year. Little did he know, my team teacher and I were tasked with teaching at-risk students that year. According to my principal, we were "...these kids last line of defense... of hope... to not drop out of school..." With only five years of teaching experience under my belt, I gave it my best shot - using every piece of "weaponry" in my arsenal. And, in my 22 years in education, that year is marked as my most profound.

Andre was one of the 20+ students labeled "at risk"; although, at school, he never appeared to be at risk. Andre was always prepared for class, engaged in lessons - especially in social studies, happy to be at school, and an all-out hilarious student! I recall his delight in taking on roles of stories or plays we read in class. I can still see him marching in our mock war protest outside - with his sign held high and his voice singing, "War... huh.... what is it good for?" I still belly laugh at his "innocent" question posed to the Kerr Lake Dam tour guide: "Excuse me. Where is the dam bathroom?" This kid had me wrapped around his finger from day one.

Fast forward to December 22, 2015 where a 30 year old Verizon customer support specialist approached me and asked me my name. Not able to get out my whole last name, Andre said, "I knew it! It's me, Andre!" There I stood in the middle of Verizon laughing and crying all at the same time, hugging his neck while customers and other workers stared in disbelief. He shared with me that after high school he went on to play football at Fayetteville State University and is a proud father to a two year old son. We took a selfie (of course), and I promised to find him on Facebook (which I did). I left the store with my heart full...

Why is it that we gravitate to students like Andre? Is it because we see something in there that has awesome potential? Is it because kids like Andre need a little extra attention? Is it because we (as educators) want to make a difference in the lives of every student we teach (and don't teach)? YES! YES! YES! That's why we do what we do! That's what's in our blood!

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of our students. It may not show today - or tomorrow - or a week from now - but someday, say 16 years later in a Verizon store wearing your old leggings and oversized sweatshirt, you may get a glimpse of how you touched a student's life.

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