Monday, February 11, 2013

A Little More T


T  fought against me as his teacher and advisor early on in high school and even quit school for a while. His plan at the time was to go on a hip hop tour to NYC. He had been interning at a music studio and had hooked up with a group of older artists. T was respected by his peers at our small school, and we were all a little worried about him leaving school. However, you couldn’t budge T once he made up his mind. He was gone.



T came back eventually. I can’t remember if it was months or a year, but some time had passed, and I was never exactly sure what had happened. He went on tour and then . . . the kids who usually told me everything wouldn’t say what happened. When T came back to finish high school, he was different. He stopped arguing with me on most days, and he was willing to work.



At one point, T was placed in a job program in addition to the music studio. I was surprised to learn he was a home aide for a man in a wheelchair. T had to feed him, bathe him, and help him go to the bathroom. T had grown into a big strong man so I knew he had the physical strength to do it, but I was impressed by how mature he was about his responsibilities. The man would page T while he was in class to ask him about his med schedule or if he couldn't find something. I busted T for leaving class to use his phone, only to learn that he was helping his client. After verifying, we allowed him to use his cell during class time if his client needed him.



One day, T didn’t look so good when he came to school. He was really late, and I made a sarcastic comment before I caught the hurt look on his face. He told me that his client had died that morning in his care.  The more I learned, the more amazed I was that he had made it to school at all. Students and staff rallied to support him; the same kids who could be complete a-holes to each other had an instinctual understanding of when they needed to come together as a family.



I never saw T after graduation though I saw his friends and sister. I always asked about him, and I suspect they were keeping his whereabouts secret in case I was trying to bust him one final time. It had to do with how T left.



Students had to work so many hours for each credit at the high school, so a diploma could be earned in less than 4 years or it could take 5 years or more. I think T was 19 at his graduation. He was one of a few kids we had every year walking for the ceremony but having a small number of credits to finish over the summer.



The year of T’s graduation, the principal forgot to replace T’s real diploma in the holder with a piece of paper that said something like Just Inches Away. The principal realized her mistake after T had left. I knew T would not spend his summer earning his last few math credits when he had the diploma in his hands. Thinking about his exit always makes me smile. I wouldn’t have tried to take back his diploma even if I had found him.



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