The last one to arrive in class, he hangs his head low in hopes no one notices the shaggy hair, the hole in his shoe, the fear in his eyes. He has no paper or binder, because what’s the point? Everyone has already deemed him a failure. Mom left him. Dad gave up. Teachers just push him through the system. He sits in the back row and pretends to listen to the teacher give her lesson, but his mind is consumed with doubt and worry. “Will she be like the rest? Once she knows my story, what will she do?”
Days pass and he doesn’t show. No worrying about what the teacher will think if you’re not there. Just living up to everyone’s unexpectations. But now the school is threatening truancy court so he has attend or dad goes to jail. Going through the motions of being the dutiful student, he goes to his last class of the day. His teacher stands at the door waiting for him. He rolls his eyes. Probably another lecture about being in class.
“Hey kiddo, how’s your day going?” She smiles as she drinks her coffee.
“Eh, ya know. Another day.” Shrugging, what else does she expect.
“Well, hey, what’s your favorite muffin?” Her eagerness is beaming out of her bright smile.
“Chocolate. With chocolate chips.” Random question.
“Well, look. I’ll make you a deal. You show up three mornings of the week to make up days and get some help on your assignments, I’ll bring you chocolate chip muffins.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. I don’t kid about muffins.”
“Man, you’ve got a deal!” She shakes his hand as if a business transaction just occurred. This lady is nuts, but if I get chocolate chip muffins, it’s got to be worth it.
So the teacher scours the web for the best chocolate chip muffin recipe she can find. She’s not sure if it will work, if the young man will actually show up, but it’s worth a shot. This is what she does. It’s who she is. A mamma hen at heart, she takes her babies under her wings; bakes them treats that remind them that someone cares. Because someone did the same for her.
Teachers, I want to encourage you as we are entering the fall sessions of school, that your words and actions are felt long after the students leave your rooms. Please be mindful that the students that come in are carrying burdens that we might not have worried about at their ages. So speak more words of encouragement than annoyance. Correct them with mercy and grace. Listen to what they are saying and not saying. You might be the only reliable mother/father figure that child has that year, so make it count. Too many of our babies are taking their own lives because they do not feel loved. Step out of your comfort zones and love those children as if they were your own. It could be the life you save.