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Ale Ale Ocean, Free

I don’t know if I can pick a favorite type, but I do adore a particular kind of person.  I think I gravitate towards and am so captivated by them because they seem to exude sincerity. I love unapologetic folks. Rash and raw. Awkward skips in the beat. That’s my kind of people. I like the surprise. I appreciate the honesty.

So much of my time is spent reflecting on my students. There’s no shortage in the variety of personalities that have stepped through my classroom doors throughout the years. As I was leaving today, one particular student gave me a high five that forced my own beat to skip.

Each day, the bell rings and my homeroom kids hustle back from 9th period to retrieve their belongings from their lockers and meet with me to check out with a high five. It’s routine. A crowd of 7th graders saluting me with a hanging high five hand as they endure my hurried announcements and impatiently wait to grab the handout and dash out the door. Each day this particular young man takes his time getting his belongings. Often, long after everyone has left for the day, I will look up to see him straightening the bookshelves, picking up scraps from the floor, organizing the binders. We make small talk as we straighten up the room. I tell him I appreciate his help.

This young man is a skip in the beat. He’s irregular. It’s as if bubbles and rainbows spring free in his young head. He’s thirteen and often approaches me with an impromptu hug. Sometimes it’s just a squeeze of my arm. I could be doing something as simple as facilitating the kids as they line up for lunch, and there he is next to me, suddenly giving my arm a squeeze. I’ll look to him and he just gives me an earnest smile and proceeds with following the given directions.

‘Meese Keechen,” he once called to me as he was walking out the door at dismissal. “I sew and make bracelets!”

“Are you kidding me? That’s awesome. I’d love to see some of your work. You know Christmas is in a month…” I jokingly responded.

The next day, I was given a bracelet. It was two pieces of yarn; one white string, one pink string, twisted together and tied in a knot. The most precious, somewhat ridiculous thing. I wore it all week.

Status and popularity is high priority for many Jr High kids.  The majority are hesitant to speak up and most are very aware of the cardinal rule of never snitching. Not this one. On more than one occasion, when there has been an issue of an offense involving unknown culprits, this young man has demonstrated he has no qualms being the rat. A couple months ago, another teacher and I were reprimanding a double class of 50 7th graders about goofy behavior in the locker rooms. The kids were withholding information. No one came forward to own up. Something was said around the lines of, “If it takes all week, two weeks, you will not be allowed in until the person responsible comes forward. If you want to tell us anonymously, that is fine. Etc etc…” Now usually, kids hold out. Sometimes the truth is never uncovered. Sometimes serious tough love comes into play. None of that was necessary in this case. After a brief moment of silence, this young man’s hand shoots in the air.  “Yes?” I ask.

“It was him,” he states nonchalantly, pointing with a dramatic extended arm across the room to his classmate. The accused boy immediately grimaced and rolled his eyes, letting out a lip smack and a scowl. Everyone in the room, including my co-teacher and myself were taken back in shock that the truth came out so quickly and so frankly. It took a minute for us to collect our bearings and transition back into disciplinarian mode. It personally took me a ton of self-control to suppress my laugh.

I love this kind of person. No, not a rat, necessarily, but the kind who isn’t the slightest concerned with how he will be perceived by others. No barriers of social ramifications or boundaries to suppress his actions. He’s just himself, brazenly true.

When we were kids we’d play hide and seek on the block. “Olley Olley ocean, free free free!” would be called to indicate to the players who were still hiding that they can come out into the open without losing the game. I wish more of my students followed this young man’s example and knew it was ok to come out of hiding. I hope he knows he’s winning, ahead of the game, just by being true.

The kids had all been dismissed. A couple of my tutoring kids wandered into my room and were waiting as I was busily occupied at my desk, responding to emails. I felt his presence and noticed him out of my peripheral. I looked up and saw a cupped hand extended, patiently awaiting a high five.

“Will you be here tomorrow Meese Keechen?”

I had been out for the past two days in meetings.

“Yes, I’ll be here. Bye hon. Have a great day.”

“Good. I missed you.”

I adore him.

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5 replies

  1. I seriously adore him and I don’t even know him. You’re about to make countless readers adore him as well. Those are the kids that keep you going.

  2. You started out telling about a personality you enjoy. I thought you were going to tell about a friend or someone you met that met the description. But…it was a student. What a picture you painted. What a neat kid. Apparently you set up an environment that allows kids to just be themselves. Sure – many are awkward and extremely self-conscious as they go through JH but this young man feel comfortable being himself. I have to meet this kid!!!

  3. Aww, love this kid! Not to seek attention, but I totally related when you said he would straighten up the class room after class because I always do that!

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