Tuesday, July 28, 2015

You can never predict

One of my characteristics (or flaws) is the fact that I always try to predict the future.  During my days as a classroom teacher the class would work on career awareness.  Students would take quizzes that gave indications on what career fit their answers.  Looking back, we didn't take it ultra serious, I mean, the kids were in 5th grade.  To pigeonhole them into a career at ten years old is crazy.

Yet, I did enjoy seeing the results and laughing with the kids about the careers.  One young lady who was extremely difficult to motivate had a fire lit under her when the results spit out telemarketer.  She was adamant that her life wouldn't be spent on the phone with strangers!  I got a kick out of her reinvesting herself into school.

Years ago I did have one group that was simply destined for great things (by my predictions).  They were intelligent, athletic and just simply a fun group to teach.  After I became principal at Warner Elementary I kept tabs on my former students.  I was fortunate enough to bump into a few at the gas station, supermarket and read about them in the newspaper.

As a teacher you rarely if ever think about the bad things that could happen to your students.  You try to envision the successes and the milestones.

A couple years ago I was looking at a box score and trying to see how many of my former students were playing on the varsity.  As I perused the column I didn't see a name I was expecting to find.  I didn't think much of it and just kept going about my business.

A few weeks passed and I overheard a conversation that grabbed my ear.  Two local farmers were talking about the outlook of the basketball team in districts.  They said something that I won't soon forget, "If we hadn't lost him we'd be sure to be favored."  Lost him?  What happened?  

Two days passed and I was out for my Sunday ten miler.  I decided this was a safe group to ask the question.  What happened to the young man?  I was then informed that he was diagnosed with cancer. He no longer played on the team and he was missing tons of school.  What?  Cancer?

The rest of the run and throughout the day I was flooded with memories.  I kept thinking of all the laughs, the fun and my hopes for him.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted or even thought one of my former students would get cancer.  Sometimes life just doesn't seem fair.  He was going to be a 3.5gpa student that got a scholarship to college to play ball.  He was one of the hardest workers I ever had.  How could he get cancer?  

Over the next couple years I listened to the stories and kept up to date on his health.  I had heard that he was in remission, but still receiving monthly treatments.  I wasn't surprised that he was beating cancer, he is an amazing young man that has a strong family supporting him.  

Then I got a message from his mom inviting me to his graduation open house.  

Last Saturday I drove over to Kenzie's house and walked into his garage.  He came to greet me right away.  We shook hands and he looked good.  We talked about 5th grade memories, we talked about cancer, we talked about family and we talked about the future.  It was great to see him in such good spirits.  He even told me that the treatments are all mental, "It's all about my attitude.  If I think I feel terrible then I do.  If I tell myself I'm going to be okay, then I am.  It's all about my attitude!"

Powerful words, but I shouldn't be surprised.  He was the same way in 5th grade.

As we talked we reminisced about things that happened in 5th grade.  He remembered when I sprained my ankle at recess.  He remembered the classroom challenges. He remembered the fun nicknames that I gave the kids. We shared stories and laughed about all of our memories.  

I never would have predicted one of my former students would get cancer.  When our kids sit in front of us we try our best to make a positive impact in their lives.  We wish bright futures. We dream of our students making their mark on the world. Most of all, we hope for happiness. My predictions on Kenzie didn't go as I imagined, but seeing him now, I believe he has a bright future.  His determination, perseverance and positive attitude will carry him far.  I'll continue to keep tabs on him, but Kenzie reminded me, you can never predict the future.

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