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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I ran into a student at the gym this evening that I used to teach a couple of years ago. He was always a pretty big trouble maker, but very charismatic. Hilarious and charming, but never made any effort. I'm pretty sure I had to fail him in Biology. I saw him getting water, and I called out his name and asked him what he was up to.

"Just gettin' my exercise on," he said. "I graduated and everything, and I had a little girl, then I gained some weight, but I'm back down to about 206. I had got into some trouble a while ago, and when I was in jail I got up to about 227, but now I'm back down a little. What are you doing?"

A lot of information all at once, but none of it surprised me. "Just getting in a late workout," I said. "You staying out of trouble now?" He said he was. "Well that's good," I said. "Try to keep it that way, and take care of that little girl, you hear?"

I tend to adopt the speech of the people I'm around. Anyway, it was nice to see him.

I thought several things:

- Couldn't I have done something when I was his teacher to keep him from getting into trouble and going to jail/having a kid he's probably not ready for?
- Is there some bigger point here about youth and responsibility?
- How much can any one person ever really help another to make decisions?
- Jesus, this guy is huge. He's at 206 and he can't be more than 5'10". He probably benches around 325.

I considered these thoughts. Then I thought:

- I don't think there's anything I could have done for him.
- I don't think there's really any bigger point here. Some of the kids I taught turned out awesome. Some are having a tougher time of it. There's nothing new here at all that I can see.
- As has always been said to me, you can't really help anyone unless they're ready to be helped.
- I wouldn't want to arm wrestle him.

But then, I was pretty tired. I'm not sure how well-considered any of these thoughts are.


Blogger Ben said...

I think your conclusions are correct.

You can't force change on someone's life any more than a great book can force change on someone's life. That doesn't mean great books are pointless, only that someone has to be willing to read them.

If a student isn't willing to read, then there's nothing you can do.

For this reason, I waste no time in trying to instruct students who don't respond to me fairly quickly, like in two or three classes. If they're still shut off, well, I wish I had the time to get to the root of their problem, but I just don't, and in the meantime there are other kids who do want my help.

1:29 PM  

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