18-year-old Man?

Posted: 2011/04/16 in Classroom Teacher, Education, High School, Media, Students
Tags: ,

The yearbook deadline was the next day. I should have left it to the students, but I picked up the good camera and went out to the courtyard to get pictures of three more seniors to fill out a page layout. A tall boy stopped me to ask if he could get a yearbook portrait taken. I told him those were done last fall but offered him a way to get into the book. All he had to do was answer a question about what he would remember from high school. I snapped his picture.

Two weeks later this same boy was shot getting off a bus. He’s still in the hospital with one bullet in his arm and one in his abdomen. He’s out of danger now but will need time to recuperate.

Of course word spread throughout the high school. The same day I first heard the news one of my students told me this boy was sprayed with ten bullets (not true).

From the start this boy was labeled a “problem” student. He created problems. He was a problem. He couldn’t focus in class and most days he was disruptive. He disappeared from school for long stretches of time. Even as a freshman he already had a parole officer.

As a freshman he was shorter than me. He was shorter than most of his classmates and took on a role typical of “the little guy.” He was the joker. Starved for attention, he wasn’t the angry thug. He was thug lite, quick with a smile and wanting to get other people to smile.

He started 10th grade taller than me. He’d stop by my room sometimes to visit, but soon after I stopped seeing him. I wasn’t certain whether he was still registered at our school. Other students needed my attention. I had other students to worry about as I had worried about him.

When he was my student I wondered what the future had in store for him? Would he mature and be disciplined enough for the job market? Would his math and reading skills improve enough? Or would he be swallowed up by life on the streets. I have other students now and I ask myself the same question: What future do they see for themselves? I’ve never gotten an answer to that question.

Another teacher was talking about the newspaper article she read about the shooting that left our student in the hospital. She couldn’t get over the newspaper calling him an “18-year-old man.” The truth is none of us had ever thought of him as a “man.”

Old enough to vote. Old enough to go into the military. Old enough to get shot walking out of a bus. And in my eyes still just a boy.

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