It was in the 1970’s; there was a young man with brown wavy hair, sad green eyes and a mouth that never seemed to smile. His name was Edward and he stood a little over 6 feet tall. He presented a mood of quiet, shy and almost pitiful demure. Edward had enrolled in a music theory class.
It was hard not to notice the only six foot boy, Edward, as he walked into the classroom a few minutes late and positioned himself in the back row. He slumped into his chair and lowered his head with his arms folded across his chest in a defying manner. This would be his general entrance into class for the remainder of the semester.
As weeks progressed and tests were given, Edward did not do well. He managed to turn in homework which was marked way below his ability level with my notes. He never participated in class discussion or offered to answer any questions. His teacher noticed he had no friends at school. Sometimes, during lunch, he would sit on the grass, under a tree, munching on a sandwich and staring into space.
Edward missed too many classes and when he did come, he carried himself like an old man as though he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. At the end of the academic year, it was time to reveal student’s grade and based on Edward’s conduct throughout the year it didn’t seem like things were going to get better.
Here’s a record of turn-around day for Edward by his music teacher –
“I sat in my office looking at the long line of students waiting to come in and receive their final grade. I allowed one person at a time to come in, take a seat, close the door and prepare to be “judged”. After each student left my office, I would take a peek at the line to see where Edward was. After an hour or so, the line became shorter and still there was no Edward. I began to worry. Did something happen at home to delay him? Was there an accident on the way to school? Maybe he was stopped by a policeman? Perhaps he is sick.
The last student in line met with me, received their grades and left.
Where is Edward? Shall I wait a little longer? Am I fooling myself ? He is not coming. I decided to lock up my office and go home. I had done all I could. But something deep within continued to gnaw at me. I felt sick to my stomach. My eyes filled with tears.
What is wrong with me? I took some deep breaths, sat back and closed my eyes. In front of me lay the papers, the final exam for Edward. I had not decided what kind of grade to give him. Well, it didn’t matter as he didn’t show up anyhow. I looked down at the exam with his name printed on it and saw an imaginary D as his final grade.
I got up from my chair, gathered my things, closed the office door behind me. As I reached for my keys to lock up my office, I heard footsteps approaching me. I held my breath as I turned to see Edward standing behind me. He apologized for being late and asked if I would please give him his final exam and grade. I hesitated for a few seconds, then cautiously open the door and asked him to have a seat.
He looked just terrible. His eyes were sunk with dark black circles under them and the hollows of his cheeks were drawn. His swollen lips were cracked with dried blood in the creases. His skin was pale and his hair matted. He was wearing the same clothes he had worn for the last few weeks.
“Would you like some water?” I asked him. He replied “No thank you,” as he sat trembling. Then he spoke to me for the first time.
“I know that I am getting a low grade on my final. I realize that I have not been participating in class and that I am an embarrassment to others. I am lazy, selfish, stupid and an ugly no-good-for-anything person. I have no place on this earth and what’s more, no one can ever love a person like me. I am a hopeless case with absolutely no future”.
I could not believe my ears. I wanted to interrupt him, to convince him that he was none of these things. Instead – I let him talk. I listened with my heart and not my head. I fought back my own tears to manifest my strength and professionalism.
When he had finished, I faced him, looked directly into his very sad eyes and said, “Edward, your final grade is an A”. His reaction was one of total and complete surprise. “You are giving me an A? Me? Why would you give me an A when I did such a poor job in class, on my assignments and on my final exam? Why would you do that?”
My answer to Edward was this. “You may appear to be a D student, but you are an A person. I believe in you now and I will always believe in you. I am here for you now and I will always be here for you. Never, ever forget that. Now, go and create the life you dream of. Believe in yourself. I will be watching. And by the way Edward – I love you”
In all my years of teaching, I have never graded a student this way…
To be continued!
Next week, you’ll read about the astonishing events that preceded Edwards appearance in school and how words can save a life.
This week, save a life, encourage someone, speak positive words only.