I don’t know how much time we spent together last year. I do know this...it was quite a bit. It was enough that he had made himself pretty comfortable in my office. I could have put his name on the back of one of my chairs. It was his spot. There were days that it felt like he walked out of my office, taking his latest reprimand, and his teacher was calling me before he got back to class. There were days when I thought it was pointless. A waste of everyone’s time. We weren’t getting anywhere.
We had several lunches together. Even more walks in the hallway. I bought some caramel apple suckers to keep in my office and give him when he did well. The bag came up missing out of my desk drawer before I ever gave him the second one. It was par for the course. One step forward and then three back it seemed. Maybe half a step forward.
We spent so much time together last year, that when he began to conquer his reading struggle, he wanted to share it with me. For about twenty minutes he read to me that afternoon. That was a triumphant moment. There isn’t much better than celebrating a success with a child you have been through the struggle with. For an educator, there is no better way to energize the battery. Progress. I was proud. Now if we could just get that behavior under control.
It was quite an investment, not just on my part but several of our staff members. We were pursuing him pretty hard. And being a fourth grader, time was running short. It was an entire year. Daily one-on-ones, two-on-ones with me and his teacher, sometimes the bus driver getting in the mix, two weeks of summer academy, three pairs of broken glasses, and lots of missing candy. We’ve had a time.
A new year came. A new haircut and a fresh start. He comes to my office quite a bit. Just about every day. Some days two or three times. But not once this year was he sent for. Not once have I had to call his teacher or his teacher call me. Not once has that bus driver mentioned his name. And not once have I even had to speak of reward candy.
When he comes to my office now, he wants to see me. He’ll stick his head in the door and say something like, “Hey, Mr. Walker. Are you having a good day?” Sometimes, he’ll just stand there and wait for me to speak first. He’ll ask me how many cups of coffee I’ve had that morning. Or how many kids have been in my office that day. Sometimes he’ll ask if he can come hang out after he gets his work done. Either way, it brings a smile to my face.
He stuck his head in the other day, “Mr. Walker, I ain’t been in trouble all year.” I reply, “Are you sure? Do I need to check with your teachers?”
“No! I haven’t. I promise. You can ask them,” he says.
“No need to. I knew it was in you. Let’s see how long we can make it last. What do you think?”
“I like fifth grade,” he says.
“Me too, bud. Me too.”
I don’t know what will happen from here. I don't know when he’ll discover his gifting or how long it will take for him to figure why God put him here and what he is called to do. But I do know that we have watched an incredible transformation in a short amount of time. And I know that is going to lead somewhere. And somewhere special. Really special.
It was about 2,000 years ago that Jesus talked about leaving the ninety-nine to go after the one. And I love that part of being an educator...going wherever you have to go to find the one. That’s his story. He is the one. And at a critical moment, there were quite a few shepherds looking for him. It’s made all the difference.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” Matthew 18:12-13