Saturday, September 14, 2013

"I'm Proud of You"

When I was a kid, I was blessed with parents that would often say that they were proud of me. Okay, well, not ALL the time, I did build their character from time to time. *grin* Overall though, they were proud of it, and let me know. I didn't fully get the depth of that statement until I became a teacher. *grin* Over the years kids have come and gone, which isn't my favorite part of my job. It would be AMAZINGLY cool to be able to know how each of those students turned out, but that's not how it works. *grin*

My job is one in which they are with me for a season, and they move on. Some students I have one year, and others I have SEVERAL years. That IS one of my favorite parts of my job, the fact I can loop with my students from year to year. I really get to know them as little people before they go on to Middle School. I always pray throughout the year I have them that He would use me to pour into their lives. He is always faithful to do that. And, every once in a while, I get one that contacts me years later and invites me to a graduation or a wedding. Tonight I got to see a wedding of one of my FIRST students.

I remember my Student Teaching Experience, and there was this one student who I called "J". He was my first challenge as a teacher, and somehow we went from battles in the classroom to a healthy, good relationship. I have pondered "J" over the years, and I honestly don't remember what took us from being in a battle, to enjoying being around each other. *grin*

I had J. for first, second (my first year teaching in my own classroom), fourth, and fifth grades. By the end of fifth grade, he was a favorite of mine. I really liked J. I sent him off to middle school and from time to time he would drop by the elementary school and say "HI". He clearly was a busy guy, so those visits were rare, but EVERY time he came I made sure I had time for him.

I was at his graduation, as he and Big Mike graduated at the same time. I talked more to Big Mike on a regular basis, but it made me *grin* to see that J. graduated. J. had a lot of things that could have had him down a dark path, but he took a higher road. Oh sure, he was human and made mistakes, I'm sure. But, he graduated high school, which was my prayer for him throughout those years. *grin*

Some time after that, he friended me on FB. It was good to hear from him and see that he was doing okay. He lived in the area where the tornado hit in Joplin, and I was THRILLED when I found out he was okay. (Honestly, I believe I sought him out right after the tornado and made sure, as he was one of those kids you don't forget years later.)

Not too long ago he sent me a message on FB. That is RARE as he has a young life to lead. *grin* The message said something like, What's your address? You have a wedding to be at. When I read it, I grinned and sent my address. A little while later, an invitation to his wedding arrived in the mail. I just smiled. I don't take it for granted when my former students invite me to their current life events. And today was the big day for J.

I left here around 3 and got there at 5. I ate dinner at Schlotsky's. Yes, I planned that. *grin* (We need one close to my house. *grin*) After that, I headed to the wedding. *grin*

I got there, and it was a beautiful outdoor wedding. I'll be honest, I haven't been to many weddings that were outside, but this one was very well done.

When J. came out in his suit, I was amazed at the young man he had become. I know the family of the girl he married a little bit, so that made me *grin* too.

As usual, it was about a 15 minute ceremony, and I felt so blessed to be sitting there. Afterward, I headed out. I had a long drive home and wanted to be home early so I wouldn't be falling asleep as I drove back.

As I was walking out, the wedding party came out for pictures by where I was parked and I heard "Shannon". I turned, and it was J. He came over and thanked me for coming, and I looked at him and said, "I'm proud of you, J." He hugged me and went back to be with his wife and wedding party.

Some people may find it odd that I drove 4 hours total for a fifteen minute ceremony. I don't find it odd at all. I was blessed to be there for the beginning of his new life with his wife. J. is one of the first students I had, and will always hold a special place in my heart.

Yes, I'm proud of that young man. I look forward to hearing the great things he accomplishes in the future. His life could have looked SO different, but he has walked a good path, with a good head on his shoulders.

I'm proud of him.

By the way, I named my dog "Jay" after him (and three other people) that had the first letters of their name be J. J. doesn't know it, but when I tell people when I chose the name Jay for my dog, I tell them about a little boy that was once in my classroom for four years. Now, I'll add to the story and say he's now married to a wonderful young lady.


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