Dear Teresa,

Imagine my surprise when I looked up from consulting with two students about a research project to see you, gone for so long that you almost escaped from our memory, standing there.

“I’m back,” you said, with your sheepish, cute smile that so often belied a soon-coming explosion of defiance when you were in my class. Your smile could go from sweet to, “I ain’t going to do that and there’s nothing you can do to make me and I don’t care what you think about how I’m taking to you,” in almost no time at all.

“Where have you been?” I asked, pretending I didn’t know. Of course I knew: you’d dropped out of school. The rumor was that you’d simply — and somewhat pragmatically, I must admit — decided that since you were doomed to repeat the grade, why even finish the year.

“I was in jail,” came your reply. I could have sworn there was a bit of embarrassment in your voice, but perhaps that was my naive optimism reading something into it.

“What for?”

“I wasn’t coming to school.” Your expression suggested disbelief that I could be so ignorant, but perhaps you realized soon enough that I was only testing you to see how you’d respond.

“How was it?”

“Boring.” I have to admit: “boring” wasn’t the word I was expecting, or even hoping for, but it suits you perfectly. Your most common refrain in class was always, “I don’t want to do this. It’s boring.” I think that really meant, “I can’t do this, and I’m frustrated that I don’t even begin to understand it.”

“Have you changed? You look different. There’s a lightness, a confidence, in your eyes that wasn’t there before,” I remarked.

“Mrs. Smith noticed it too,” you replied, which is understandable: the guidance counselor notices everything.

We’re all wondering the same thing, though: is the change for good?

With a Smile,
Your Teacher


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