Teal Pajama Bottoms

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 15. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

She raped me!

Do you know what that feels like?

Do you?

Do you!

The words still ring in my head like the last bell of the day, dismissing me to a new life without my best friend. Our last chance to get back to where we were, I think, probably gone just like him, just like the next UNO kid Ms. Benevo was on to.

Except that was a fantasy. And it always was. Because we couldn’t go back to sophomore year any more than we could go back and play in the sandbox. After all, Pete sort of did tell me that:

That’s your problem, Brown. You think you can change the past, but you can’t. Because what’s happened can’t be changed.

It’s just too bad it took me so long to see it.

I don’t know how late it was when Ant woke up to Pete screaming out into the night. She was scared. She wanted to go back to her room. We left him there by himself on that couch and walked down the hallway and up the stairs, one floor up, past the ice machine, all the way to the end.

Click.

The door opened.

She pulled me into her, kissing my neck, then my lips, roughly. “Come to bed,” she said dreamily.

“Not tonight; you’re drunk. Another–”

“Now!” She pushed me in.

“What about Charley?” I said, so meekly I could’ve been the virgin she took in her basement. I was running out of excuses. I wanted her more than my first time, our first time.

“She’ll be out till tomorrow. She took a sleeping pill.”

Ant’s face was glowing like a candle in church. Instinctually, my hand gravitated to it, guiding it to mine, uniting our lips. It was the stuff movies were made of – the drawn-out, emotionally cathartic embrace of the star-crossed lovers – missing only the climactic crescendo right as their lips finally touched.

[Read More…]

Throwback Thursday: The Road Not Taken

Originally posted on May 21, 2017, ‘The Road Not Taken’ recalls all of the trials of the past year that have prepared me to begin submitting queries for ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up‘.

And besides last year’s being the most professionally successful year I’ve had to date, I finally learned how to swallow my pride and ask for help. Now, I’m starting to see the benefits.

I remember having to memorize Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” in ninth grade English. Although terrified at first as an awkward freshman in a school I did not want to attend, the experience forced me to confront and overcome my fear of speaking in front of others. This experience has proven invaluable in adulthood as I make presentations every period I teach and regularly am asked to address parents and graduates.

That “Road Not Taken” is what I believe I am on right now as I’m finally finding my way out of a hole of middle school and ninth grade poetry that has consumed my life for the past two-and-a-half weeks. Rising earlier and leaving later has dominated the 2016-2017 school year.

That commitment has yielded some of my greatest professional successes:

  • Some of the best student-generated poetry I’ve ever read
  • Quantifiable progress from a handful of struggling learners
  • The return of The Overlook Journal
  • The maturation in perspective of my seventh and ninth grade classes
  • The building of my reputation as an academic mentor and tutor and an executive function coach
  • My own acknowledgment of my weaknesses inside and outside of the classroom

Yet, this year has also seen the stagnation of my writing, whether it be blogging, drafting my next manuscript The Heroin Times, or finding the right agent to ensure the success of Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up.

I tell myself I have a primary job that at times takes me away from my writing. Yet, I also have a passion that gnaws at my conscience when I do not indulge it. In the past, I’ve robbed Peter to pay Paul by not doing my best in my planning, assessing, and teaching the kids. And the kids who are always the ones left holding the bag deserve better.

In other instances, I’ve driven myself up the wall to rush to put together substandard content – whether it be a blog post or a query or a proposal. I, too, deserve better than the mania I feel in every quiet moment where I’m reminded that I cannot find the time or am too mentally and physically spent to do what truly satisfies me.

So, as my father always tells me, nice and easy. A great struggle for me, for sure, but that’s the mantra I have adopted. With that in mind, I plan on taking off major portions of the summer to focus exclusively on my writing. That means no summer school for the first time in seven years and limiting the number of private clients with whom I will work.

If anything, this past year has reminded me that my haste will be my undoing. The more I rush to finish this, to get this out, to be here, or to see this person or that person, the worse the result will be. That much I can now admit. And I’m not trying to get another form rejection (if that).

Sometimes, I think maybe I’m afraid of rejection after seeing it early on. And maybe I am. But I believe in myself and what I have done and still can do.

And that’s what keeps me rising every day as I look forward to the work that lies ahead in the midst of my “Road Not Taken” moment. As Frost writes,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I truly do believe all of the trials of this year have prepared me for what I will do moving forward. And that will make “all the difference.”

Free to Wear Sunscreen

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 14. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

I staggered into the single, unisex bathroom ready to float away on the Arno in my drunken mirth. It was our last dinner on our last night. And I was finally content – finally – with Ant, Pete, with myself, with all of it. For once, I smiled in the mirror, I felt like I was ahead of the curve. Before I heard a stirring whimper behind me.

I turned to the craned back heaving over the edge of the toilet seat, spindly arms shaking, her whole frail frame shaking, meek face in between. It was Becky. I didn’t even notice her when I walked in.

And I stood stuck like a stroke in a place I knew existed but could never fathom, the difference between knowing about and experiencing, the difference between staying young and growing up. So lost in her own sickness, in not eating, in sticking her finger down her throat, she looked like an exhibit in the Museum of Natural History.

[Read More…]

ICYMI: Your Deeds Are Your Monuments

“ICYMI: Your Deeds Are Your Monuments,” originally posted on October 6, 2017, reflects on the progression of my former protege as a freshman at American International College.

Sure, this young man made me rip out my hair and bang my head against brick walls quite a few times. However, to see him graduate high school, attend college, and progress has made it all worth it. For he’s starting to see that choices matter and consequences are real.

What we do represents who we are, whether we like it or not.

Throwback Thursday: Oh Captain! My Captain!

Originally posted on May 28, 2017, Oh Captain! My Captain! recalls my Dead Poets Society moment with my seventh grade literature students. It still amazes me how some pieces of literature seldom fail to elicit such thoughtful responses from students. It also doesn’t hurt that Walt Whitman is one of my favorite poets. In my opinion, any student reaction to literature is a positive step, and this class, now in eighth grade, is certainly moving in the right direction.

I’ve mentioned before that after Robin Williams’ passing, I watched Dead Poets Society with my wife and let out a good cry. That viewing allowed me to rediscover my protagonist and ultimately inspired the prologue of Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up.

I recently had my DPS moment with my seventh grade students. When we started discussing Walt Whitman and I mentioned “Oh Captain! My Captain!” a handful of my students astutely commented that they recognized the poem from Williams’ portrayal of John Keating.

After showing them a clip from the film (not the entire movie, for everyone knows it’s the cliche substitute/hungover English teacher go-to), they begged and pleaded to stand on their desks and belt out the poem. So, with Whitman’s poem on the SmartBoard, we all rose up onto our chairs (not desks, for I was too worried about one breaking and impaling a student). Boy, did that classroom roar that day with youthful exuberance, with passion, with pride, with meaning. It would have been a great picture/video opportunity if I believed it appropriate to do as apparently many other teachers do.

Students across all of my classes (6, 7, & 9) have exhibited unexpected skill along with an equally as surprising dedication to producing quality poems well-above their grades. While I do not believe in chronicling my interactions with my students in multimedia, as their champion, as their most ardent supporters, I will be sharing an anonymous student poem each week to commend their efforts.

When the student makes good on his/her promise, this is the validation of what the teacher does.

Always.

The Warriors

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 13. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

Florence is like a bunch of tiny quaint streets, not busy intersections or zipping SMART coffin cars going out of their way to run us down. It’s just calmer here. So are the people. I’m not positive if they’re more patient or indifferent, but they’re definitely more willing to accept us as their American cultural refugees. Three thousand miles from the Island, I don’t feel out of place here. Actually, I feel more accepted than I do in my own house.

Figures, since we’re leaving tomorrow, I think standing in front of another church – so many I’ve lost track. This one’s the Duomo, Becky calls it. The nearly translucent girl who has more dignity than anyone I’ve ever met not named Antoinette Gallo is showing Glenn her sketches that chronicle our trip in charcoal and pencil and Balaam crests. Glenn’s gushing with goshes when Becky gives her one to keep, which she files into her beaten leather over-the-shoulder messenger bag.

It’s the most enthusiasm I’ve seen from Glenn in days. She’s pretty much given up trying to impress anything on us, but she’s still going through the routine, probably for about another hour-or-so and that’ll be it, asking, “Did you all know this is the second church to stand here?” even though Becky and Ms. Benevo are the only ones paying attention.

“It looks like a candy ribbon Christmas house, in my opinion,” Lilly says.

“Man, wish I had a joint.”

“For any of you all who are interested, Santa Reparata was the name of the church that stood here before, and, let me tell you, theorists say the original cathedral was built in 300 A.D., but…”

“It kind of reminds me of a wedding cake,” Ant says.

“Yeah?” I don’t see it.

Glenn’s still on the Reparata, and Becky’s asking her who the dome’s architect was. “Brunelleschi,” Ms. Benevo answers, engaged and completely unaffected – detached, really.

Becky gives her a sideways glance, Pete a pleading one, while Glenn commends “Julie,” she calls her, saying her name like she has a lollipop in her mouth. It’s really only the three of them.

“I’m thinking more like dominoes,” I say. Ant tilts her head, trying to picture it. One flick and the pearl-colored shingles will cascade across, clicking and ticking from side to side, gaining, gaining, up A-shaped arches and down A-shaped arches and around the windows that seem to yawn heartily, clicking and ticking from side to side.

“By 1296, construction on a new church had begun, what would eventually become the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or, the Duomo,” Glenn begins before Mrs. Weary slaps at her watch.

“Well, before we go inside, if you look at the church’s appendage…Giotto’s Bell Tower. It was designed by Giotto di Bondone and was completed in 1359, more than 20 years after Giotto’s death…”

“Man, you know what you guys sound like, right?” – Tommy holds up a finger in the shape of an L – “Losers, man, losers.” He doesn’t see Lilly waving him off because he’s giving Candace’s headlights the eyes.

“You just have to swat him away, kind of like a gnat,” Lilly says to Ant. She smiles wide, happy to be included.

“Girls! Let’s go!” Ms. Benevo snarls. “Keep up!”

Lilly rolls her eyes and whispers something to Marie – a torpid, yet incendiary jealousy in her eyes – and we’re moving towards the doors, caught in the crush of human bodies. I’m trying to hold onto Ant, smashed up against Wolfman’s back that feels like a wall of ivy it’s so hairy. I apologize. Michelle calls out for “Lord Jesus!” Next to her, Dilbert picks his nose and eats it. Mrs. Weary’s in her husband’s ear, probably about him breathing the wrong way. Someone gives me a flat tire but doesn’t apologize. I wonder if Becky’s underneath my feet somewhere.

Then, we’re not in the vice anymore, not 30 people up each other’s asses harder than the hardest gangbang anymore, and I can breathe, walking with my normal gait past the leather-clad door that’s soft but hardened from every oily, unassuming hand that’s ever groped it. Inside the church, it’s so dark I think I might as well have grandma’s cataracts because all I can see at first are the shadows and the flickering candles.

The air rushes through like the wind over the water. Ant braces herself against my chest. I nudge her, quipping, “Place definitely saves a fortune on its electricity.” She giggles silently.

Once my eyes adjust, I can see a cavernous, marble corridor that opens like a clearing from a cave. The walls are fleshy and white and reinforced by the darker-grain wood, which furthers the small-town church feel even though the structure is monolithic. Above, stained glass parables one of our sexually frustrated religion teachers might’ve taught us about preach to us, casting rainbows across our unworthy faces. We are. All of us are.

Glenn doesn’t even bother stopping our traveling American circus at a depiction of the Last Supper. We’ve seen so many versions of it, conversely none of which were DaVinci’s according to – who else – Becky, that they’re like billboards along the highway. This one’s your typical church representation with Jesus adorned in a plush, wine-red robe, crowned in a golden ring, and surrounded by his disciples. Still, camera’s click because that’s what tourists do and we’re tourists.

“Don’t know if you heard what Julie – gosh, Ms. Benevo, I’m sorry – said before, but Filippo Brunelleschi is responsible for the ingenious design of the dome. He won the opportunity during an open art competition in 1419 A.D. But, gosh, what he proposed had never been done before: build the dome entirely out of stone…” and absolutely no one cares because we’re ogling the dome’s phosphorescent glow.

That’s why Michelle stops grandstanding to the few underclassmen who don’t know any better. That’s why Candace stops flicking her nose ring and Becky stops sketching and Fr. Bagnani stops drinking his holy water and Stacy stops shadowing Mrs. Weary who stops shadowing Mo. Everyone stands in place like a flash mob simply appreciating what even Melissa might be able to grasp; that is, it’s more than just a dome.

With its lustrous, golden rows riding round and round depositing depictions of Bible verses that are realer than our faith that so few of us practice, it could’ve been the pearly gates. From its zenith, rarified light – from heaven, not the sun, I’m convinced – filters in. Heaven, I think, the place I’m not even sure is a place; the place I hope my grandpa is, where my grandma will be. In that light, I feel as unwelcomed as a mosque near Ground Zero.

“And, golly,” Glenn’s still talking, “after Brunelleschi’s dome design was chosen over his lifelong competitor Lorenzo Ghiberti’s in 1418, Brunelleschi got sick in 1423 – although, let me tell you, some believe it was more gamesmanship than actual illness on Brunelleschi’s part. Regardless of why he did it, it proved to be a real test when Ghiberti, who was still involved in the project, couldn’t enact Brunelleschi’s revolutionary design; gosh, he couldn’t even understand the plan–”

“That’s SO exciting, Glenn” – Mrs. Weary brazenly snaps her gum – “just so exciting!”

Miraculously, Brunelleschi was cured,” Glenn continues with more than a hint of sarcasm, ignoring the teacher, “and he returned to Florence to continue constructing his dome, which, gee-whiz–”

“That’s great, Glenn, REALLY it is. Thank you so much,” Mrs. Weary cuts the guide off one last time. “Unfortunately, we have to get back to the hotel. As I’m sure you know, we have an early dinner tonight and well, you know, that’s that.”

“Gee-whiz, well, I guess we’ll–”

But Glenn’s muffled, protesting gee-whizzes are drowned out by surprising the complaints that descend upon the church like locusts:

“Already?”

“Please, Mrs. Weary, just another minute!”

“Aw, why?”

“A couple more?”

The pleas are denied. She ushers us – Ant and me and Pete, the girls, Tommy and Candace – towards those heavy church doors even though we’re still taking pictures, but of course she stops for a quick shot with Mo and the squad because why wouldn’t she ruin everyone else’s to get the best one?

“Come on!”

“Not fair!”

I feel Ant’s fingers reaching for mine. She squeezes my hand and I squeeze it back, our fingers intuiting the hypocrisy of the flaky teacher who plays favorites almost as bad as Ms. Benevo – minus the kid-touching part – until we’re on the street with the sky as gray as the cobblestones under our feet.

“Quiet!” Bags barks into that gangrenous hanky. We’re all so alarmed he said something that everyone shuts up.

We’ll meet Alfredo in a half hour, Mrs. Weary reminds us, go back to the hotel, pack our bags, have another one of those group dinners, and then be given the night to ourselves.

“Now, kids, what do we say to Glenn?” Mrs. Weary asks us like we’re a bunch of six years olds at the planetarium.

“Thank you, Glenn,” we say, rehearsed and with less emotion than a funeral home director.

With a lot of goshes and gollies, one more gee-whiz, and still no bra, the browbeaten guide praises us for being an “inquisitive” group, kisses Fr. Bagnani on the cheek, hugs Ms. Benevo for about 10 seconds longer than what’s already uncomfortable, and offers an impersonal hand to the two Weary jerks. She gives us one more salute – a halfhearted wave – before she ties a bandana across her head and joins the cast of The Warriors who are walking by.

 

Copyright (C) 2017 Andrew Chapin

Your Deeds Are Your Monuments

I’ve always told my students I’m not their friend or buddy, so do not confuse me with someone they can pal around with. And I’m not interested in their social lives or weekend plans or who’s dating whom so long as it doesn’t affect their academic lives or physical/mental health. That’s the stuff of high school gossip  some educators definitely whisper about – those people need to get a life.

Anyway, there is a line that exists between teachers and students for a reason, a distinction that further separates child from adult. However, kids eventually grow up. Then, what do you do?

They move on, you continue to do your job with a new set of kids and a new one after them and so on. And as a teacher you hope they make the right decisions and see future success; that’s it, right? Well, yes and no. In my position as the middle [and sometimes high] school English teacher at Thornton-Donovan School in New Rochelle, I occasionally have the unique opportunity to watch a child progress from 6th grade all the way through 12th grade. That tidbit provides some context for the work I did with a young man originally from the Bronx whom I started working with when he was in eighth grade. He became the first member of his family to graduate from high school last June (see “The Make Good Son” for more on him).

[Read More…]

Park Avenue Carriage Horses

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 12. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

Whenever I go to Manhattan, I always pity the horses willing their tired bodies down Park Avenue with dirges of huffs and grunts in a drawn-out, spectacular march towards death. No longer the majestic beasts of their youth, just broken down and more sluggish than glue, hoping for a heart attack before their legs break and they’re euthanized.

Their automated counterparts I’m currently watching rotate in a burnt-out piazza that Glenn might or might not have named are in a similar lot, tired and abused – wearily working, working, always working. They, who jerkily buck up and down out of sync to the organ music they’re supposed to keep up with, whose nostrils once flared pink and red but are now dull pennies, whose faces no longer have faces after the weather stripped them away, comprise the saddest carousel I’ve ever seen.

Yet, to the kids who ride these downtrodden beasts, they are atop Secretariats and Man O’ Wars. They see what we can no longer see – the imaginary – and truly believe they are champion riders. To them, they are. Friends. Little shits.

[Read More…]

This is How We Do It

My unpublished manuscript ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’ chronicles Andrew Brown’s struggle to reconnect with his best friend Pete Goodman as a lurid secret Andrew has never told threatens to break them apart for good.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 11. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.

On the roof, looking at the highway I light a cigarette. A car’s broken down next to a guardrail. The owner, a woman sitting on the hood with a smoking hand, doesn’t appear concerned. A street lamp begins to flicker; she throws her cigarette in a puddle.

Now, another car is pulling up. A diminutive man exits and she gets off her hood and goes to him and he holds her firmly, like a man who knows even at one in the morning, even after his lady’s shit stack’s finally crapped out and just as the rain begins to fall on them, that he will do anything for her. Because he loves her.

Love, if only it was as easy as Al Green made it sound:

Love is a walk down Main Street…

Love is an apple that is so sweet…

Love is something you can’t beat…

L-O-V-E is strange to me…

Ah, there it is again – that familiar word I hate. I think I had it once with Ant. Maybe I’ll get it back. Maybe I won’t.

Pete thinks he has it too, but he doesn’t know Ms. Benevo like I know her, like others like me know her – that she’ll walk away and find some other Pete and keep on doing what she’s been doing without any consequence, without any justice. And I can’t let that happen.

So now, chasing each shot with water, one after another quenched with another until it starts to taste better and then doesn’t have any taste at all, I lean forward, gravity pulling my head down. You tried that out once before, I remind myself. My weight shifts back, almost as if my body’s responding. With Ant now I’ve got too much to live for. But it wasn’t always like that.

I remember taking the Volvo out to a party after she left. I didn’t even have a license yet, just my permit, but no one was at the house to stop me so I backed it out of the winding driveway like Ursula and I had practiced and punched it down Route 110. It was a Friday night like any other with expectations of drinking games and easy hook ups. At the same time, it wasn’t. Even though I was playing beer pong with the same people I usually did, everything felt different. I was different.

I’d swiped a bottle of something brown from Pop’s personal reserve that night – scotch or bourbon, I’m not sure – and I just kept pouring shots down people’s throats and my own. And I didn’t stop. I was trying to lose myself in it like a message in a bottle, so low with no one there to confide in, no one there to understand me. All I wanted was to forget about Ant and Ms. Benevo. I wanted to forget about myself.

I screwed Candace that night in some little kid’s twin bed barely big enough for both of her boobs. I was looking for any type of love to lift me up even if it was lust, in such a dark place I couldn’t see myself in the shadows that turned me and her into two silhouettes.

And I was so consumed in opaque self-loathing I wasn’t even focusing on her and how bad she was moaning docilely underneath me – workmanlike, a chore, a job. My thoughts were swinging from the end of the shower curtain in this little kid’s personal bathroom, they were in the garage with my car running and the window open, they were wrapped around the tree at the end of the block, but they weren’t there in that room with me when I rolled off her.

She kissed me harshly, clearly wanting to make something more of our romp than a one-night-stand, but I pushed her away and left her lying there in a position she’s definitely familiar with, stumbling down the stairs and out the front door – actually walking right through the screen. The last thing I remember – for how long, only the bottle knows – is me jumping behind the wheel.

When I came to, still in the Volvo, it was on the front lawn at my parent’s place. The brand new sod they recently had installed was mangled with tire treads. The mailbox modeled after our house lay somewhere underneath the front bumper. I was missing a mirror, had hit something on the way back I guess. In my hand was that that same brown bottle. And no one was there waiting for me. No one was ever there. It would be cleaned by the afternoon. I’d lie and say I was practicing and hit the gas instead of the brake and they’d accept it. Because they always accepted it. I guess it was easier than knowing the truth.

I could’ve died that night, all by myself in that car with no one else. And my parents, the papers, Balaam, my friends, everyone would’ve thought it was unlike any other drunk-driving death – a poor choice that yielded a poor outcome. But no one would’ve really known why – that I was conscious of what I was doing, that somewhere in me I wanted to die.

No more, I remind myself. Not over Ms. Benevo. She wasn’t worth my life. Because it was mine. Not hers. Anymore.

After one more swig the bottle takes, it staggers from my hand and shatters the serenity of the night on the street below. Alone again. I think about the rest of my friends. They’re probably sitting in one of the girls’ rooms taking shots, playing “Never Have I Ever” – Becky’s definitely the only one with any fingers up – and Pete’s there because Lilly gave him shit and people listen to Lilly. Me and Pete haven’t spoken anything more than good mornings and goodnights in what seems like days, though nothing’s been good about either of them.

There’s only one way to break them apart, I remind myself. But what’ll Ant think? I again hear that question in my head. What about Pete? And that same reply, more like a command, more forceful than before: Forget them. This is about you.

Up the stairs, my legs move. Room 4D. That’s where Pete stayed last night – her room, he told Tommy at breakfast – Tommy told me at lunch. She’ll be alone. Or she won’t be there at all. It’s past 10. The hallways are empty. I’m empty.

Copyright (C) 2017 Andrew Chapin

Throwback Thursday: The One That Got Away

Originally posted on January 12, 2017, “The One That Got Away” laments my work with a student who, at the time, had lost his way. However, I never gave up on him and he didn’t give up on himself either. He graduated high school this past June, but that wasn’t always guarantee as you’ll read below.

The one that got away is the nicest kid you ever want to meet.

Stood up to protect me when a parent raised his voice and puffed his chest at me once.

Would give you the shirt off his back.

Has the voice and stature of a natural born leader.

Mature beyond his years.

Most of the time.

When he’s not, however, he’s the most disrespectful, naive, ignorant, wayward, stubborn child you’ve ever encountered.

He can never be wrong, only right. He didn’t start it; they did.  Didn’t say it like that. He didn’t mean it like that either. Was just joking around. Wasn’t my fault; it was she, he, it – anyone but the one who it actually is. Always.

I have eternal patience in a lot of ways. I mean, I have to, I teach kids. And I don’t quit on a project until I have completed it. Yet, I recently stopped working with a student I have mentored for nearly five years. And over those five years, I have seen the young man make such marked strides as a student and as a human.

Or so I thought.

[Read More…]