Friday, January 5, 2007

Shannon's back and I'm glad

There is a girl at my school who came two years ago as a freshman. I never had her in class and I never really spoke to her. I only know her name, Shannon*. Shannon was in trouble a lot when she was here. She would often sneak away from school to go smoke (and worse), and was put before our school’s discipline board several times before the end of her freshman year. She gave every impression of being an angry, bitter child and did not seem to care that a lot of people in my school had a sincere interest in her success.

Even though I had no professional reason for doing so, Shannon was always on my radar. It was like when you hear an obscure name in the news once and, whenever it comes up again, it piques your interest. I wonder what’s going on with suchandso? You never get involved directly in the person’s life, but you find yourself looking for news about her in the paper or on the net.

In Shannon’s case, my interest came partly because of her name. I know someone with her name (which, in real life, is both beautiful and unusual). That small connection kept her in my mind enough that I noticed when she did not come back to my school to start 10th grade. I didn’t pursue it, but I honestly believed that she had dropped out.

Quite unexpectedly, Shannon was back. I first noticed her the week before Christmas break, and it took me a second to recognize her. She no longer had blue hair or dark circles of makeup around her eyes. She was dressed quite demurely in jeans, a sweatshirt and soft leather winter boots. She no longer had that angry edge to her that I had seen before. Naturally, I was curious to know what had happened but, with no genuine cause to do so, all I could appropriately do was wonder quietly to myself.

Yesterday, I actually got to talk to Shannon. She enrolled in a running class in the afternoon that is held at the same time as my soccer class. Since it is too late in the year to play soccer, some of my students have asked if I would take them out for long, brisk walks just so they could be outdoors. Shannon wasn’t able to run yesterday, and the running coach asked me if she could go walking with my group.

She actually spoke to me first. She asked me what I taught at the school, and that started off a discussion about what it was like to speak more than one language. Had I travelled? What was it like in Europe? She had never gone far from home before, but thought it would be fun to travel. We talked as we walked about all sorts of things. I learned that she had left my school to enroll in a traditional public school, but got into real trouble there and left. Then she went to another charter school, but didn’t fit in. She came back to my school because, in her words, “You don’t know how good you have it until you don’t have it anymore.”

I learned a lot about Shannon in the 90 minutes we spent together. At the end of the class, we both agreed that we’d had a good time talking and that we should do it again. I find myself looking forward to that.

Is Shannon a success story? Not yet. She still wrestles with an abysmal home life, trust issues and a very difficult road to graduation from high school. But she’s engaged with her life now. She’s making choices to move forward with it and, probably for the first time in a long while, she sees a future for herself. I’m glad she’s back at my school, and I’m grateful the universe gave me the chance to know her.

1 comment:

mrschili said...

It's stories like this one that convince me that teaching is, perhaps, one of the truly great professions available to us. We get to participate, facilitate and encourage kids to figure their stuff out, adn to cheer them on when they get it right.

Good luck!