I'm not opposed to success, I just think we should accept it only if it is a by-product of our fidelity. If our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones. – Greg Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart
J. was one of my favorite students.
J. was a kid who dealt with circumstances that forced him to become an adult at a very young age. Plagued with instability in his family, he bounced from one place to another — at times, living homeless. Family issues were abundant. He endured pain, violence, indifference, and rejection at the hands of those with whom a child is supposed to place their trust. He was tough as nails.
At school, J. did an admirable job in spite of his circumstances. However, he was a student we would now label "chronically truant," and from time to time, he would have issues with a teacher — primarily due to his insistence on being addressed as an adult. Remember, this was a kid who in all other areas of his life was forced to assume the responsibilities of a grown-up. J. also had a great personality and sense of humor — once offering to drive when I went to pick him up for school (even though he was only 13) and pointing out that I was "getting a lot of gray hair" in the midst of a conversation about his need to display school appropriate behavior. While there were many things working against J. and his prospects for success, he possessed tremendous heart: a quiet strength, and determination to pursue something greater.
Today, I saw J. again for the first time in years. By all measures he is now an extremely successful young man — a high school graduate, with a good job, and giving back to others through community service. I could not be more proud of what J. has accomplished. During his high school years, J. found several adults willing to heavily invest in his future — people who brought stability to his life. They recognized the importance of walking alongside a kid who had encountered more than his fair share of trauma. J.'S determination to improve his circumstances, along with the advocacy of caring adults, lead to positive results. He brought resolve and resilience to the equation. His support network of provided encouragement and hope.
The opening quote in this post provides a powerful warning about the potential pitfalls of failing to support a truly public education. When it came to the probability of good test scores, a high class rating, or absence of behavioral issues, taking a chance on J. was not a good bet. It is highly likely he would have been a school choice casualty. But, because there were adults and educators in J.'S life that were more concerned with him as a person than his potential to bolster a school letter grade, he became a success story.
I am so proud of this young man, and I am incredibly thankful to the people who have chosen to invest their time and love in his life. In my humble opinion, J. and his support network are true heroes!
Don't quit on kids.