Pride and Posture

One of last year’s graduates came back to see me today. He has completed bootcamp and is preparing to ship out to South Korea.
This is one of those students who is a genuinely good kid, but who is not prepared for or interested in college. This is one of those students who could fall through the cracks, who could drop out and/or disappear because the current public and charter public school system isn’t designed to help him.
Last year, he barely passed. He drug his feet on everything. I had to constantly kick him in the ass about completing his Capstone requirements. All of his teachers kicked him in the ass because he was a good kid that we didn’t want to see lost.
In January last year, when the various military recruiters started coming around to give their spiels, several teachers (myself included) pushed him into considering the Army. The biggest obstacle to his recruitment was whether or not he would finish and get his diploma. Thankfully, that became the carrot that he needed to reach the finish line.

I asked him to keep in touch. I gave him a few blank cards with self-addressed, stamped envelopes, and he already knew my e-mail. Unsurprisingly, I never heard from him, but I thought of him from time to time, particularly when seeing recruiting advertisements.

So today, when he knocked on the door (a respectful, mature knock – not the frantic, overly loud, knocking of hurried, entitled, discourteous students) and I opened the door to see him standing in the hall in his full Army Combat Uniform, my eyes teared up.

I exclaimed, “Look at you!” as if I were a grandmother seeing a long distance child relative for the first time in years, and as I asked his permission I opened my arms to give him a hug which he happily accepted and returned in kind.

“Hey, Mrs. Magy.”
“You look taller – it’s your posture.”
He blushes and smiles the same wide, genuine smile that he’s always possessed, “Everyone keeps telling me that.”
“I heard that you are going to be stationed in Korea. Are you excited?”
“Aw man, who told you?”
“A____ told me – he came by on Friday. He’s in town before going back to base in Missouri; I’m sorry that he stepped on your good news to share.”
He shrugs, “It’s okay. And yes, I’m excited. I’m getting out of the country for a while, and at a good time, if you know what I mean.”
I nod.We continue this way for several minutes, my asking him questions to allow him to share about himself in a way that makes him feel like he’s answering questions and not bragging, but it’s clear that my class is no longer engaged in their activity and are intently eavesdropping.”I’ve got to get back to my students, but I am so very glad that you came to see me today. Will you forward me your address once you’re settled so that I can send you goodies from home?”
“Sure, Miss, I still have your e-mail.”

I give him another hug, and as I turn to go he calls my attention again.
As I look back, he snaps me a proper hand salute, executes an about face, and walks toward the office.

Reentering my room, my tears will not be withheld any longer, and I go to my desk to grab some tissues.