Hi. My name is Graceless Mom and, tomorrow, my son will be coming to your school to undergo freshmen orientation. What is ironic is that my son has been coming to this high school since he was six months old. In some respects, he has been in the school longer than many of you.
I am sending you the best part of my life. I have a daughter, and she will be following her brother in three years and I will also refer to her as the best part of my life. But, right now, I am focusing on my son because he is coming to you. And, in some respects, I am worried about him. And, in many other ways, I have no anxiety.
My dear friends and colleagues, together we are receiving the children who represent so many parents’ best dreams and nightmares. Into our classrooms will enter fourteen year olds who were once precious little babies who gurgled and cooed at their parents, who gave toothless smiles which made every parents smile with an absurd, silly lovestruck grin. Into our classrooms will walk little bits and pieces of fragile emotions that are held together with frayed spider web threads that are sticky and will collect the bits and pieces of our emotions that we may unwittingly fling at these children.
My son is a wonderful young man. He is a bundle of kaleidescopic emotions that shift and turn with each moment or with each impression and each experience. As a thunder storm rolls over our house, he has stood outside, shaking the cat’s food bowl to entice her into the house. My son is living, breathing-compassion. He cares more for people than for himself. He thrives on making others happy and will go to any expense to ensure that he guarantees the peace and well being of others, even if it is to great sacrifice to himself. Most people immediately see him as polite, for which I am thankful. But, scratch beyond his courteous demeanor and you will find a string-ball of raw, un-adulerated emotion.
He wants to show compassion. And he wants to be shown compassion in return. He wants his dignity and integrity and will frequently sacrifice it himself because he is so concerned with other people that he forgets to protect himself. So many strangers have been the recipient of his loving personality. Whether it is the random shopping-cart-boy who doesn’t have to run around the parking lot picking up stray carts because my son has moved the carts people carelessly discarded or the homeless man sitting in New York City’s Chinatown to whom my son gave his leftover dinner because he didn’t have any money, my son thinks of others before himself.
And he does this with his eyes on the ground and not on the people around him to see if they are watching him or taking notice of him.
Please, I know that my son is going to screw up. He’s going to make mistakes and is going to procrastinate on his homework and is not always going to be perfectly respectful. And I completely understand that you will be put in that horrible position of disciplinarian which none of us wants to be. Trust me. I get it. I haven’t written a referral in…well…I can’t remember. It’s been so long because I hate writing up students because then they are usually sent to in school suspension and they miss my class or, worse, they are given out of school suspension which means they are missing even more classes. And I want my students to succeed, even if it means that my dignity might be stretched and frayed a bit by the angry looks and harsh words the students will toss at me.
And I have said things that I have later regretted and fretted and prayed over. Like you, dearest colleagues, I am human which is frequently ignored by the general public. Like you, I want my life and want to enjoy my life and being treated as a second-class citizen is angering and frustrating, especially when the insulting behavior is delivered in an adolescent shaped package.
But these kids still have their sense of self-respect which still needs, at times, to be protected even as much as we want to deflate the egos which threaten to drag our students to the highest levels of the firmament. Trust me. I know how you feel.
And when my son’s ego gets in the way of his better judgment, remind him that he needs to rethink his actions before he has to accept the consequences. But, in the meantime, please grant mercy to his dignity and self-respect and self-perception. Because my son is fragile.
Much like my students are equally fragile.
So, tomorrow and next week and in the months that follow, I promise that I will do my absolute best not to disturb your classes and walk unnecessarily by your rooms with the intent of seeing my son working and learning. I promise that I will find alternate routes to whatever location I need to go and will not call your classroom with a message for the Boy. I promise that I will not write you harassing emails or will think evil thoughts if you have to reprimand my son.
Just like I promise to the parents of the children whom I will be teaching that I will shield their humanity with every fiber of compassion that I can muster. I promise that I will remember that the children sitting in my classroom are just like my son, wanting to find a way to succeed and move forward and achieve. And when they succeed, I will celebrate with them. And if they fail, I promise that I will remind them of their greatness, even if their self-perceptions are sullied and tarnished.
Please, show my son compassion. You have my faith. You have my trust. Most of all, you have my son.