This is the third of ten things you don't yet know about me.
In my twenties, I was a teacher. And I learned a lot from a boy—let's call him Darren B. Darren—who was age 11 when I met him and was the most disruptive kid in the class. He was one of those students whose name was on the tip of each teacher's tongue, because somebody was usually upset about poor Darren's behavior.
Darren was age 15, when I'd just announced to the class that I'd be leaving in a week's time. No one was happy about this. I was a fair teacher who respected those who struggled with literacy, and did my best to be empathic but strong. I also had a sense of humor, and heaven only knows who'd replace me. But Darren? Darren was pissed at my departure. And this lasted for a full week.
Our final lesson together happened on my last day at the school. After every other student had left, saying their goodbyes, Darren was still sitting at his desk, his face flushed red. He hadn't even put his things away.
"I'm not going," he told me, angrily. "If I don't go, maybe you won't."
I went over and sat down at the next desk. "I've resigned, Darren," I said. "I'm sad to leave you, but I have to go."
This was the kid who'd sat in detention more times than I can say. He struggled with the written word and this frustrated him. He'd been angry in my lessons, several times, and often seemed incapable of focus. Sometimes, he had a sudden and disturbing temper—he'd been known to throw chairs. So, Darren and I had behavior contracts that we'd written up together. We'd spent lunch hours talking about how we could support his struggles with classroom behavior. He'd improved no end, but it had always been difficult. He was also fun and quick-witted, with great smarts and a goofy sense of humor.
Plus it's always special to see a student who, in spite of their troubles, is learning and trying.
So, there we were, at Darren's desk, with Darren now in tears, telling me I couldn't leave—that he wouldn't allow it. "You're the only teacher who likes me," he said. "No one else gives a damn. This is my favorite subject, now. You can't leave."
I told him that the other teachers really did give a damn—and I knew this was the truth. But all the same, I was moved, and I told him so. It's extraordinary the impact that you can have, just by liking someone and caring about them. From Darren, I learned that no matter what else happens, you can change someone's whole darn life, by caring.
I care about you, queerly dearest.