Last weekend I attended a wedding where I had the pleasure of seeing several former students after many years. One student in particular stood out. Rob, who I have not seen since he was in grade 9 science, was there with his wife and 2 children. To say Rob struggled in school would be an understatement. He spent most of his time in detention (very popular then) for his hi-jinx in Foods class and in the principal’s office for various infractions. To put it bluntly Rob was a juvenile delinquent; in trouble both in school and out.
Rob was also an energetic, outgoing and charismatic young man. He loved to make people laugh and always had a twinkle in his eye. Rob was a handful in class; he loved to talk, joke and demanded lot of attention.
At the end of the school year Rob presented me with a card and a wooden bowl that he had made in shop class. The card is long gone but the bowl still sits on my desk in a place of honour.
When I saw Rob last weekend I was happy to tell him and his wife that I still had the bowl and i had thought of him many times over the years as I reached for a paper clip. As we talked at the wedding he described some challenging years after high school. Then he met his wife and his priorities had shifted.
Standing there on the lawn, seeing Rob both as a grown man and as the teenager I had known, was enough for me; to see Rob with love in his eyes for his beautiful wife and children. He was happy, healthy with a steady job, he had love and purpose for his life.
In that moment, all the angst and hassle of having Rob in my class was validated and the why was revealed.
Sometimes as educators it is challenging to find and connect to the urgency of our why. At times we may be tempted dismiss a child “as too much work”” or to rationalize that the child “will never be successful” and to focus on those who will be. I would be dishonest if I did not admit that I have have had those very thoughts myself and I think they are normal to have (just not to act on).
According to the evidence of school Rob was not “successful” and many predicted he was doomed to a life deemed “unsuccessful”.
And here is the thing, it is hard…very very hard…to believe in what you can’t see…
We can never see the depths of our impact on the lifetime’s of the children we work with. We can never see the potential for change and growth that resides inside each and every one of us.
And we don’t always get to see the Rob’s and all they have become.
But we can most certainly believe…
Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.