6.11.2012

Lorenzo's Gift

OK, so today sure I'm excited because I'm headed to my home state to present at and attend a Character Conference! I just love seeing what other character educators are doing and sharing some of our promising practices, so I know it's going to rejuvenate and invigorate me!
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And now for the rest of the story. On Wednesday I promised that there was a story coming, because sometimes I wonder if the students in the earlier part of my career got ripped off. I think I can safely say that that happened to Lorenzo. This story has been one that I've needed a week to reflect on before sharing it. It's so weird; I hadn't thought about him in 22 years and this week I can't stop thinking about him. I'm not sure that I've totally digested it myself, but here goes; my son Jacob suggested the pithy title: 


Catharsis Over Queso

After much debate about where to take Jacob for Mexican food the night before he went to Germany for a few weeks, Luna's won out because it's close by and we had a church bulletin which means a ten-percent discount. Anyway, we were enjoying queso and chips while perusing the menu when this man comes to the table and asks what my name is. He explains that he's pretty sure I used to teach at FHS and goes on to say, "I think I was your worst student." Well, "that couldn't be right" I was thinking as my mind flashed instantly back to Hector (click here to remember his story). He told us that he was a 1990 graduate and that he'd caused a lot of trouble in high school, so much, in fact, that I'd kicked him out of my class and made him take Spanish from the teacher down the hall. He said his name was Lorenzo.  

As I tried to remember a Lorenzo and figure out WHY I would have possibly kicked this kid out of my class, I quickly apologize for not doing more to connect with him. He shrugs off my apology and he adds that I'd be glad to know he'd turned his life around and graduated from Texas A & M. He says he's in town visiting his mom and I introduce him to Kaitlyn and tell him that she's a student at UT.  They greet one another, and that's when he says he wants to buy our dinner to make up for how horrible he'd been. He asks John how much he thinks it'll cost and John replies that we're pretty much a $50.00 family of five. So Lorenzo puts $50 cash on the table and says again that he can still see the frustration on my face and he was sorry for all of the trouble he caused. Then, Lorenzo walked off.

I wanted to know more, to remember his story more clearly, to understand what made me do what I did. I see his mom, who was waiting for him at the cash register behind us and, when we make eye contact, she comes over to me. I tell her that I'm sorry I kicked him out of my class and that I hope I wasn't mean to him, and she smiled softly and said something like this: No, he doesn't want you to feel bad, that's not what this is about. When you walked in, he recognized you right away and he told me that you'd kicked him out of your class.  I asked him if he deserved it and he said yes. You disciplined him like we would have and I want you to know that he's a successful businessman because of teachers like you.

She was kind to imply that it was tough love, the reason I didn't let him stay in my class, and maybe it was. Or maybe I was just a young, inexperienced teacher, in over my head and out of tools to help a trouble-making teen. I feel sad that someone has believed for 22 years that he was my "worst student" and I totally wish I could change having given up on him . . .  I just cannot imagine that I thought sending a student to another class was any kind of viable or reasonable solution to his behavior challenges. 


So I've had to force myself to not get too caught up on what went wrong and focus on what went right, on the courage that it took Lorenzo to come to our table and make amends after all those years. I'm happy that he was able to go on to make better choices and do good things in his world. I feel fortunate that Lorenzo was able to forgive me for not finding a way to reach him and I am grateful to him for his generous gift of grace (especially powerful because my own children got to witness it) and some great grub. 


For the record, I find it comically coincidental that all of this happened at a Mexican restaurant
And today I know, without a doubt, that you just. never. know



3 comments:

  1. Great story--don't fret that the incident happened. Be thankful that it did as it has reinforced the need for you to make sure you try to be a positive factor in every child's life. We can't connect with everyone, but we can try. It appears he was able to turn his life around so he did gain from the negative experience.

    Will be looking for you at the conference and hopefully I can get to your sectional. We are presenting at Tues 2:15 and Wed at 9:45.

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  2. What an amazing story and a brave man Lorenzo turned out to be. It gives me hope to think that students like him can find a way to turn things around.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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  3. I LOVE this story, Barbara! You're so lucky to have reconnected with Lorenzo, even briefly. I always wonder what kind of "damage" I may have inadvertently done to my students when I was a young, beginning teacher. But I think it's okay to make mistakes if our hearts are in the right place and we try to improve as we go along.
    Lorenzo is a brave, educated, contributing member of society, partly because of you!! How cool is that?
    Take care.

    ❀Barbara❀
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

    ReplyDelete

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