He came to me with a reputation of being “difficult, headstrong and uncooperative”. I trusted the comments from his first grade teacher, as she was not only an experienced, amazing teacher, but also a good friend. I knew in my heart, however, that what is a problem for one person can often be a blessing for another.
The first time I sat down with my new second grader, Frank, I asked him a question about his weekend, or something mundane like that. He proceeded to tell me about the rise and fall of the Mayan civilization and the ancient Incas. To be honest, I was so fascinated that I sat with him for at least 20 minutes until I realized it was WAY past time to get the children to music and ran them down the hall.
I learned so many amazing things from him that year, and dubbed him our “little professor.” I would often defer to him, saying, “Well, class, let’s see what Professor Jones thinks about this. Frank, what are YOUR thoughts?” And with a shy smile, he would offer his five thousand cents.
In fact, on many occasions he would say something so brilliant I would point to the door and shout, “PACK YOUR BAGS AND GET OUT! You belong in FIFTH GRADE!” and then the whole class would erupt in laughter as Frank would pretend to leave.
He would also, at times, offer me a challenge and refuse to participate in certain writing activities. I would somehow manage to help him turn it around, I can’t remember how, and as the year progressed these events would happen less and less frequently.
It was with amazing pride (and of COURSE a few tears) that I watched him at Sassy’s graduation last weekend. He received the honor of being named the class valedictorian. This, out of over 700 very capable students, was quite an accomplishment.
I ran into his parents after the ceremony and was so happy to be able to congratulate them. It was then that Frank’s father looked at me with a smile, and said this:
“Mrs. Jones, I don’t think Frank would mind if I shared something with you. In his college application essay, he wrote about a very special person who made a difference in his life. It was a teacher who turned things around for him, who called him her ‘little professor’ and was one that he has never, ever forgotten. You do know … it was about you.”
And THAT is why I do what I do.