The Student Becomes the Teacher

A boy named Alex

This is the story about a boy I taught just a couple of years ago.

Let’s call him Alex.

Let me give you some background. This kid was quiet and quirky in grade 9. He was quite talented but he was like a disco ball—His light flashing everywhere. I couldn’t seem to turn him into a laser beam—you know, get him focused. I’ve used this analogy before with lots of teens who seem to be wonderful but all over the place—He wrote a story about living in Costa Rica and some other shenanigans that were so unbelievable that I asked other kids in the class and they confirmed the stories were completely true. I kept the story. It’s in a journal somewhere. In grade 10 he would come and go as he pleased meandering away from the classroom and coming back on his watch. His attendance was full of holes and when I questioned him he would just be silent with no explanation to where he went and why. He completely frustrated me. I remember yelling at him. Not cool on my part. In grade 11 I hardly saw him around. Sometimes he’d be in the hall before class, in a tropical print shirt with headphones, just grooving to what ever he was listening too. He had a completely different vibe at that point. Something self assured showed up where a quiet-in-the-shadows boy had been. In grade 12 he ended up in my senior art class. And that’s when everything changed—or rather he did.

He worked hard. He attended regularly. He was funny. He was patient with me. He didn’t seem to hold a grudge to me like some kids do when they get reprimanded. He was creative. He set goals for himself. Sometimes he achieved them and sometimes he didn’t. But, he kept going. He had a successful round with me, experimenting with all sorts of art styles. Socializing with peers. Generally having a good time. Sometimes he would just come and do experiments with art for art (and science) sake on his own.

He did a lot in and around my class but the one thing he did every single Friday guaranteed and some days in between was he blessed me. That’s right. You read that right. The first time he walked up to my desk at the end of class and waited patiently until I looked up. I raise my eyebrows to ask a non-verbal ‘yes?’ He opened his mouth “Ms. Counios, may you have a wonderful weekend with peace and happiness. Bless you.” My eyebrows went up even further for a non-verbal “what the hell” . My face swung into a big fat smile. “Thank you.” He bowed and left quietly. After that he would come over and bless me with a good weekend, big laughs, lots of smiles, adventures, peace, tranquility, health, flavorful coffee, creativity, love. And then he would bow and leave.

This ritual left such an impression on me. How would I fare when he graduated? Who would bless me? Who would point to all the goodness I had or needed or looked forward to so directly? I wondered who were his adults and his influences to make him who he is? What’s his inner circle look like? Why does he see the world like an old man, appreciative of everything? What event(s) caused this?

Since then no one blesses me. I’m not surprised. It’s a unique experience.

Blessings on my commute

Not too long ago when the grass was still green and the leaves were just finished turning colours and falling to the ground I was casually making my way to work through the park on my typical commute. I walked across the grass and avoiding the paved path. The sun was shining and I could feel of the warmth that was coming on this autumn day. I was grateful and felt blessed.

I noticed a person with their dog standing on the trail that followed the curves of the creek. As I got closer I realized that I recognized this particular dog walker. And, he recognized me. He had a huge smile on his young face, long, wavy hippie hair hanging out of his toque. It was Alex. We waited until we were close enough to chat.

“Well, good morning Alex!” I was so happy to see him. “Good morning” he greeted me and his dog sniffed curiously at my feet. “Are you headed to work?” He asked. I told him I was. “May I walk with you?” He asked. “Absolutely!”

I asked how life was treating him. “I’m wonderful. How could I not be with Grandfather Sun and Grandmother moon in the sky together looking down on us at the same time. It’s warm and calm. In this moment I’m great.” I looked up at the moon in the one part of the sky and the sun in the other as he pointed. I soaked up what he said to me. I let it sink in. In this moment I am great.

His dog zigged and zagged as we walked along the creek getting caught up. He told me where he was working and how he spent his days. He seemed genuine and happy. We got to the corner across from the school. “I will leave you here, but may I bless you before I go?”

“Oh my God! Yes please.” Seemingly impossible his grin got bigger. “May you have this smile on your face for the rest of the day, with happiness and peace around you. Bless you.”

“Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome.”

And just like that this young guru headed off with his dog back in the direction of the park and I walked into the school feeling quite literally blessed.

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