Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Staff Sargeant Mac...

I have a student; I’ll give her the blogname Mac. Mac is a junior (11th grade), and has advanced out of my lower level Spanish classes, though she still plays soccer for me in the fall. I don’t see her every day now that soccer is over, but I make a point of chatting with her when we pass in the hall and she comes to hang out in my classroom after school as I’m packing up to go home.

Mac is a member of the Air Force Junior ROTC program. She has every intention of enlisting when she’s finished with high school because she wants what the air force has to offer and because she really enjoys being a part of something she respects. Now, I make no secret of my distaste for military life. I was a navy brat and have no interest in adding to my time served. Even so, I very much support Mac in her decision to do this. She is a good student in a school that sets very high standards; the military is not her only option. This is her dream. It is a good dream, and it is worthy of my encouragement.

I was sitting at the desk in my classroom today surfing the net when Mac walked in, all smiles. She came specifically to show off her new insignia, one she’d just earned over break by completing a rigorous two-week test that challenged her ability to do a lot of things. She and I had talked about this test before, and she was very nervous about it. She wasn’t sure she could do everything they were going to ask of her. This test was a milestone for her: If she completed it, she would be that much closer to college ROTC, a high-paying career and free schooling. Failure would mean training for the test all over again, but also it might mean she couldn't be the capable airman she wanted to be. The insignia meant she’d passed everything, and had been promoted.

To see her today in her dress blues, her new insignia proudly displayed on her lapel, she looked the very picture of pride and confidence. This, from a girl who, only two years ago, would not talk loudly enough in class to be heard from 4 feet away. I stood up, shook her hand and told her that I was incredibly proud of her and that this should serve as a reminder to her, lest she ever forget it, that she is in fact the shizzle.

I have always told my students that I did not care what path they chose for themselves in life. Their lives are their own and no one gets to live their karma but them. I only cared that they worked very hard to choose something—to make a decision for their lives—rather than be subject to the whims of everyone else’s choices. I told them that, as long as they considered everything with a pure heart and tried to understand as best they could the consequences of their choice, they were doing their job. The rest will work itself out as it should.

Mac didn’t make her decision to be a cadet based on what I said, but she is an excellent example of how making “right decisions” for your life leads to a beautiful sense of fulfillment. She is following her karma, and it is an awesome thing to watch.

Congratulations, Mac. I am very proud of you!

1 comment:

mrschili said...

What a wonderful story!

It is encouraging for us as teachers, I think - most certainly as parents - to see kids really work to figure their shit out, and to see them flourish when they do.

I think that one of the hardest bits for me as a teacher, parent, friend is to watch someone flounder about, not really having a rudder underneath them. I think that's why I'm so jazzed about MeadMaker's decision to go back to school to earn an engineering degree. He's spent the last 20 or so years wandering aimlessly living, as you said, at the whim of others and with whatever chance threw at him.

There is a great sense of peace and balance that comes when we figure out what we are meant to do - where we fit - what we can skillfully contribute. *I* have that - and I know you do - and it seems only right that we should encourage and champion others to find the same for themselves.