As a teacher in an alternative school, you never know when a student will be the only one in the classroom during a period for one reason or another. This has been an unusual year in that we’ve had very few students sent to us from the regular high schools. I have a contemporary issues class and It went from six students in August down to currently two. One was absent today and the one present departs on Friday to return to his regular high school. I asked him to look up some articles on the internet and we would talk about them. So for the first twenty or so minutes we’re both looking up articles and talking about them and just kind of finding some pretty cool news articles and such.
Then he asks me what the minimum age is for getting married and we look it up and discover that in Tennessee you can be as young as 16 and get married with parental consent. We get further into the discussion and we start talking about commitment and relationships and marriage. I talk about how when you’re younger you only have to look out for yourself and you shouldn’t make a commitment to marry until you’re ready to consider someone else in all your decisions. I ask him if his parents are married and he told me they never got married. I told him I’ve been married for almost 21 years, my brother has been married for over 20 years and so has my sister, but our parents were divorced after about 18 years or so. I told him that my wife almost got divorced in 2001 but we reconciled. I told him about how marriage is not easy and not for the faint-of-heart or the quitter. He then asked me the question…
“Why did you decide to marry her?”
I thought for a second, not that it was a hard answer really. I remembered my wife as a young woman and how beautiful she was (and still is!) and all we’ve been through since then and time has changed us and made us grow and the children we’ve brought into the world. I smiled and told him, “It has been a long time since anyone has asked me that question.” I paused and then smiled again, “I suppose you can sum it up into a real simple answer. I loved her and I was ready to make the commitment.”
I’m glad he asked me the question. Sometimes we need to be reminded of our decisions of commitment from an unexpected source.
It was a great discussion. One I won’t forget for a while. Especially since I’m blogging about it now. And it’s one I hope he won’t forget for a while either. This student rarely opens up and is somewhat of an odd duck, but an interesting kid. I like having him in class and I hope he finds his place to fit into this wild world. The conversation hit on drugs, addiction, alcohol, abuse, and a host of other topics that deal with relationships, divorce, children of divorce, etc. I’m smiling now as I think of it.
Moral to the story? Take time to be open to even the “oddest” of your students and those who are very closed-off. You really never know how much they are listening and want to ask you questions until you do become more transparent to them and receptive to their uniqueness. If they believe they matter to you, they’ll tell you a lot and you gain their trust. The buy-in after that to what you would like to do in the classroom will increase exponentially.