The first day went pretty much as expected. I didn’t have the computers that I was promised, but I had planned on that. I got many new students, a large number of which were seniors, making up the credits for graduation in June. When you plan on all of those things, you can make the whole thing go pretty easily, like a delicate ballet.
However…whenever you have over two hundred people in any system, there are just too many variables to fully juggle. The unexpected comes up, in ways that can really sting.
One of my students was absent today. She’s incredible…an unbelievable physical expression on why we should still have faith in young people, personified and delivered to my class. She immigrated to the United States a little over two years ago, learned English, became fluent, and took almost four years of high school classes in the same time period, to graduate “on time” in terms of her age category. A literal “stranger in a strange land,” the FIRST thing she did was master English, and then she took all of the same classes as everyone else, getting a GPA that ranks her 13th in her class. On top of all of that, she is a kind, gentle, nice person…and she runs cross country for the school’s team.
As I said, she was absent. Another teacher, an old friend, gave me the heads up that she is in the hospital (he’s the track coach). The situation isn’t very well understood, and the doctors are waiting for lab results. It’s pretty scary, for her (obviously) and for her family (I have her sister in homeroom).
I took the time all last semester to ensure that this wonderful young person applied to college, and that we could figure out a way to fund it with need based financial aid and grants. The whole time we did so, she treated it like it was the most excellent thing I was doing, and thanked me constantly…she didn’t take it as “my job.” Part of being a teacher is that sometimes, sweet, excellent kids that you take care of…they have problems that you can’t fix.
I think that’s part of the reason that Cap has Generic Silver Age Superhero Powers. So does Superman. If you’ve seen “Superman: The Movie”, with Christopher Reeve…there’s the scene where Pa Kent has his heart attack, and dies. Clark gets really upset talking to Ma Kent about it, explaining that he has “all of these powers, and still couldn’t save him.” More than kryptonite, it is a firm establishment of Superman’s limits. There’s some things that he just CAN’T do.
The same goes for Cap, and the same for me. I’d love it if I could make all of this kid’s problems go away. That would be great. I CAN’T, though. I can help the family figure things out, I can be supportive…and I can make the things I do have useful powers about go as well as they can. I can keep school, and college applications going fine, and make the financial aid thing happen. I can be a good friend to the family, and my student.
It’s really what Superman needs to mature in the story. To come to grips with what the world throws at him, and by allegory, at us. Learning to accept and cope with those things…I guess it’s an important part of learning to navigate our lives. As a teacher, you are a pretty constant example by your behavior of how to handle things. That means being tough about something that has you kind of upset…by “being the adult that they need, not the adult they want.” A smart young man said that once to me, and it stuck.
Would I love it if I could be like Cap and School Spirit Pony…and just haul some award winning expert doctor out of his lab, and to my student? Yes, I would. But Adequacy is just a comic strip.
Heck, even Cap can’t solve this problem. All she really does is beat people and robots and even dolphins up, and sometimes hurl things into the sun. She can take a hit really well, being invulnerable…but there’s no hit here. She really can’t even haul that doctor at maximum super speed…he’ll break. Even in a comic strip, there are rules.
One thing I CAN do. I can get some fancy paper, make a nice print of today’s strip, and send it along with a get well note written inside. That IS in my powers, and is one of the small, little things that can make the world around us a better place. Those are the kinds of things I’ve done a lot of talking about lately, and am trying really, really hard to focus on.
Fingers crossed, True Believers.