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The Best Gift Is Something You Do Not Know You Want

Arlene and I got along pretty well between suspensions.  She was always respectful, always polite, and always excruciatingly honest.  When something good happened, like maybe passing a biology test or getting to school on time every day for a week, she’d stop in my office to let me know.  When something bad happened, she’d be sent to my office where she’d sit sullenly until I could see her, and then, as usual, she’d be excruciatingly honest.

Christmas apple I don’t know how many times I suspended her for one infraction or another.  It was usually for disrespect, skipping school, or being under the influence.  Her mother fiercely defended her every time something happened. One time, before she was suspended indefinitely, Arlene came to me to say that she bought something from a kid at school.  “Listen, “ I said, “you know if you tell me that you bought an illegal substance, I’ll have to call the police.”  “Yeah,” she said, and then she pulled the stuff out of her backpack.  I called the police.  The police came.  Her parents came.  Their lawyer came.  The police were unsure the substance was illegal, and her parents were certain it wasn’t.  The parents agreed to counseling.  The intermittent suspensions continued.

When she stole some equipment from the chemistry lab, I finally had to take her to a hearing, required by state education law when a suspension is longer than 5 days.  Arlene admitted stealing the equipment and even explained what she intended to do with it. And that’s when (finally) the parents agreed that she needed to find a placement for drug rehab.  And you know what?  Arlene was OK with that.

That was 15 years ago.  Last week Arlene contacted me on Facebook.  Married almost 10 years.  Three kids, she says, and a great husband.  Working as a paraprofessional.  Living in Texas.

“I’ve thought of you many times, “ she wrote. “You were a good influence on my life.”

What a gift for the season.







Nice post.
I've suspended three 8th graders in the last two days. 2 for days each (with hearing) and 1 for an in-school.

It would be great to get an update from anyone of these three students in the future. I hope I'm having the same impact you had.

I enjoyed the perspective, especially at this time of year. Thanks.

Great story!

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