Sometimes kids need reference letters.
And I am almost always happy to write them.
I am also notoriously forgetful.
Last week, one young man, let's call him Harvard (in honor of his ambition), asked me for a letter.
Harvard is a huge kid, tall and doughy.
The first few weeks of school, I had him in my fourth hour.
I moved him to my colleague's class.
My class was, and is, boisterous.
Harvard needed something a little calmer.
As it turns out, he joined the Speech and Debate team, so I still see him almost every day.
This kid is a trip.
He freely admits that in previous years, academic performance wasn't his priority.
In fact, he reports that in middle school he got in tons of fights.
I believe him.
The temper that led to those fights is still there.
It occasionally peeks its ugly head out.
He hasn't gotten into any physical fights this year, but there have been some verbal altercations.
I am proud of him and he is proud of himself.
But the struggle is real.
And academically, the struggle can be pretty epic.
Harvard is a smart kid, but he has very little practice at playing school.
The whole concept of putting forth effort on academic tasks is pretty foreign.
He is trying.
His academic confidence, however, is painfully low.
As a result, he is one of the NEEDIEST kiddos I have ever encountered.
Every assignment, every answer, every sentence demands immediate reassurance of correctness.
He can be exhausting.
He also wants to take advanced courses next year.
I have been as honest as I can kindly be about how unlikely he is to be successful in such classes.
Still, he persists.
Lately though, his attention has shifted.
He has decided to apply to the local tech school.
This is awesome!
It would be a good fit for him and give him some real skills.
To get in, he needs a letter of recommendation.
Hence his request.
Every day last week, he came and asked me about his letter.
And because I have been busy and fighting a cold, I have neglected to get it completed.
Always, he asks again, eyeing me carefully to discern if I am honestly going to write it or not.
Friday, I wrote his name on the back of my hand with my Sharpie while he watched.
I am going to write that letter.
I promised and it is the right thing to do.
Plus, if I don't, the weight of Harvard's disappointment might kill me.
And he deserves it. He has worked hard this year to turn over a new leaf.
He has made consistently good choices, gotten high grades, and stayed out of trouble.
I don't know how he was able to make such a drastic change from middle school.
If I did, I could spread it to others.
All I know is that it is a good thing when kids make good choices.
It is a joy to witness and support.