I used to teach middle school. Really, the only reason I am still not a teacher is that whole teaching part, I simply loved spending time, talking and influencing the students. They would always come to me with problems they were facing. Even the petty relationship drama at middle school feels like mountains to kids. I loved laughing with them and giving them “Sullivan’s 3 rules to success” (there are only 2 for boys, but 3 for girls, but we’ll save that for later). The kids that would give the other teachers a hard time, or get kicked out, never were an issue for me. I honestly don’t have a particular reason why that is, but I would just try to have fun with the kids, laugh with them instead of yell and I loved them because they were worthy of it.
There was this one kid; he was constantly getting into trouble with this one particular teacher. It was always, and I do means always, related to girls. This shouldn’t be a shock to people, he was thirteen/fourteen at the time. He would get in trouble for talking with them when he shouldn’t or have some sort of relationship drama. Nevertheless, he was in trouble.
He was on my football team which added this sense of responsibility for him. He also had this smile that lit up the room when he walked in and just made you want to laugh, probably why he was always in trouble with girls. He got in trouble this one day, and it seemed like it was the tenth time that week. The teacher pulled me aside and said something that would forever change my life.
She pulls me aside and says, “when will you just give up on him?”
Let that sink in for a minute, “when will you just give up on him?”
In that moment, if I am honest, I looked at her with these crazy and dumbfounded eyes. That one question brought up so much emotion in me that I remembered I needed to breathe so that I could give an answer and not just murder her with my stare.
I looked her right in the eyes, and lowered my voice and said, “Never. I will never give up on him.”
And in that moment, something shifted inside of me.
I realized that not all people view youth the way I do. That I needed to be as persistent and stubborn in my belief in all youth and that this truth was worth living for:
That all youth are worthy of being loved, are capable of great things, and under no circumstance should I simply, give up on them.
I am grateful for that one teacher, and for that one student who simply couldn’t stop talking to girls. I am grateful because that experience helped to make me who I am today, to discover one of my core values and launch me into the world with a sense of purpose.