The biggest difference between teacher and parent

This evening, I was visiting with my friend Edwin and his wife Suzanne (and their 4 and 1.5 year old sons).

4 and 1.5 year old boys have an amazing capacity to make messes. They are clingy. It is hard to finish conversations. Suzanne apologized a lot. I got to mentioning that while I am not a parent, I do deal with kids, and that kids are messy. The messes that seventeen year olds make may be more figurative at times, but nonetheless, you don’t hang out with kids and not come to appreciate messes. I am certainly not offended when I visit friends, and see toys strewn over the house, and little crumbs of food here or there. I did tell her that the big difference was that, as a teacher, I may get to know the kids, and hang out with them for 8 hours a day, but at the end of the day, I go home, and they don’t literally come with me. At the end of the day, the real messes are for parents to deal with. What I didn’t say is that putting up with dirt and toys strewn over the floor are practice for parents to deal with deeper messes.

I got home after a great day, and had two e-mails that I really did not ever want to see.

One was from a former student, with information, “in case I missed it”.

The second was from the school … funeral information about the suicide of a student I had had as a part of my totally awesome class this past year. He had been a really enjoyable kid to work with. Hardly the hardest worker, but a genuinely nice guy. Played football. He was a memorable positive personality in a class that was filled with memorable kids.

I am pretty crushed …. I cannot imagine what the parents are going through.

It puts a little dirt and some out of place toys some perspective.

follow up: The wake was today. I’ve been to my share of wakes, and I have been to my share of wakes for people who died long before the average person of their age should have, but I have never seen so utterly a hopeless scene as this. The entire funeral home was taken up. The line of people had to slither through the hall, into one room where you could sign in while you waited, then down a short hall into the room where the body lay in state. I have not been to too many wakes where there was a lot of outward crying, but that was not the case here. The wake opened at 2, and I got there at 2:30 (figuring you give the close family a short time alone. I was hardly the first to arrive, and the line was far longer when I left at about 3:45. The funeral directors, normally only seen here-and-there, were working crowd control and traffic control.

There were many of my former students. Sad … more like stunned. I clearly was not the only one who didn’t see this coming at all.

The family had set up many collages of pictures. One in particular highlighted his senior year. 3-4 pictures had him prominently wearing the t-shirt that his class had made for me. One of his silly quotes was on the back.

When I met his parents, I introduced myself. They remembered that I was the physics teacher … the one on the t-shirt, the one who had the kids make the Rube Goldberg machine … his brother remembered that he had been a student of mine (and I remembered him). His poor father cried as he hugged me … “I just don’t want him to be forgotten” … I assured him he would not. His uniform hung over the casket (he was a big football player … not fat big … and not over muscled either, just a big tall kid).

I was glad to see that many teachers (in addition to the football coaches) were there. His counselor had contacted all of his previous teachers personally. The school had mass e-mailed all of the kids and informed them that their current (or previous counselors) would be there to talk to. I though the school handled things well.

So long as I live, I hope I never have to go through that again.

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