Life Lessons and Football Dreams

A Young Visitor

“Hey Ms. C.” A teen pops his head in to say hello, interrupting my noon hour marking which was okay with me. He was in my homeroom, at least when we used to have homeroom. “I didn’t actually know how much I liked homeroom until the schedule changed and it was taken away! It was just awesome to come in here every day and chill.” I hadn’t seen him close up since last March when we were all sent home. Occasionally he’d yell a greeting and wave from the parking lot but this was the first time in a year that he was in the classroom. He’s grown—a lot. All legs. Height. I wonder if it hurts to grow that fast. I smiled, happy to see him. We aren’t supposed to have favourites, but if we did, well—. I’ve known this young man for just about four years and I don’t have one single bad thing to say. Not one. He’s all the stuff that makes you like a kid you teach.

“Just thought I’d see how you were surviving the new Quint system.” Nice of him to check in.

“It’s alright. Good and bad. But, it’s all we’ve got—for now.” I tried to balance my complaint with acceptance.

“True, but this pandemic pretty much sucks. I mean it’s our grade 12 year. You know? Seems like it should be more—something else.”

“I suppose we put a lot into graduation don’t we.” I supported his unfinished statement. I think a lot of senior students feel something is missing but can’t do much about it. I pulled my fingers away from my computer and gave him my full attention. Then I added “I don’t think grade 12 graduation is the biggest thing you’re going to do.” He grinned and nodded. “I hope not.”

Since I first met him he had plans. Big plans.

He wants to play ball south of the boarder at a junior college. He was nine years old when he first put a helmet on and played football. Since then he’s given the sport everything he has. As he’s maturing he’s even more invested—giving consideration to future plans on the field and his education.

Driven

He has that intense drive, that sadly, I see less and less of in the general student body. When he wanted to come to a high school out of his area, he sat the principal down at the elementary school he attended and figured out a plan on how he was going to go to the high school of his choice. He got it all figured out—a grade eight kid! Then he brought in his parents to tell them his plan. Because he had every angle covered his parents decided to let him give it a go. And that’s how he ended up at Sheldon and in my class.

“So, let’s say grad is grad. Don’t know, can’t control it. What’s up after grad?”

“Easy. Football.” He says it as plainly as he breathes. “I want to play for a JUCO football school.” I had never even heard the word Juco until that moment. “The problem is my parents and I have been debating this. I think they’re nervous about letting me go, but I have to try. Dad asked if I’m ready to leave, to live somewhere else. I didn’t answer and after a while I went back upstairs and I said I’m ready to go but ask yourself this Dad, are you ready to let me go.” I raised an impressed eyebrow. That was his mic drop moment.

It was a fair and honest question. That question wasn’t just about him, it was also about his parents.

The speech

“I have dreams for myself. I’m hanging on to them. I feel like some people have let go of some of my dreams. But, you know, I think that if it means that I’m the only one that hangs on to this dream to play football I’m okay with that. I am. I mean it’s for me anyhow. My standards are high and I work hard every day. I’m not giving up. I have to keep going. I believe in myself. I feel like others don’t really believe in me anymore. So, I have to—for me. I have to believe in myself when others won’t. I have a standard for myself and I’ve reached it and I’ll keep reaching it. I could stay here—play local, attend a local school. You know, pick the safe choice. But, I don’t want safe. I want to go away. I’ll regret not going. I’ll regret not trying. I want to do this. I don’t want to regret anything.”

I’ve always been this kid’s fan. And, I feel like he came to me, he picked me this noon hour to be affirmed in his choices and feelings. I agreed with him. I had to. I believe in what he was saying and I believe he will go far. He’s just that driven. I think he’s got this.

The lesson

He stood there, baseball cap on his young head, and I listened, fully engaged, believing everything he was saying and knowing the truth of it. Knowing that I was listening not only as a caring adult in his life at school but as a human who needed to be reminded to stay on my right track, to hang onto my dreams, to keep working and to take some risks to get where I want to go. It’s for me. It’s not for anyone else. It gets hard somedays to teach all day and then to write in the evenings. Some days it’s tiring. But I don’t want to regret anything. I have to try. I have to keep working towards my goals too. Keep my standards for myself.

I learned a few things that day:

  1. Keep the door open, you never know who will walk through.
  2. Hang on to your dreams and standards—for you.
  3. Listen, the lessons come from all sorts of interesting sources.

As hokey as it sounds I think I was meant to hear his proclamation, to be reminded of that drive and that desire the fuels the fire. So, as much as I don’t love staying at school that fire.

And, once again the student became the teacher.

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