You know...as a teacher, I think it is important to make connections with your students. Seems to me that the more you give of yourself the better they act and the more respect you earn. So, at the beginning of the school year I tell my students about my background. So here is the true story I share about why I think I'm a better father (and person) then if I had not gone through this experience.
My parents divorced when I was going into 8th grade. By the time I reached 12th grade, there really wasn't much of a relationship there. I didn't play high school basketball my Junior year, but wanted to try out my last year in high school. At this point, my birth-father had moved to a lake almost 2 hours away from my hometown. If you've been a child of divorced parents, then you understand the ole rule of "my weekend vs your weekend". Well, needless to say, I HATED leaving my friends/girlfriend every other weekend during my senior year. It was November, 1991 and basketball tryouts were in full swing. Of course, being 17, I really tried to make excuses why I wasn't going to travel north for the weekend - this time, it was real! I call ahead to tell the old man that I was not going to be coming up due to practice - he begrudgingly acknowledges this and I leave it at that.
I come home to find my mom already on the phone with him as he is chastising her for not FORCING me to go (mind you, not only is it bad enough to go in the first place, we were always picked up by his new wife). I get on the phone and he begins to rip into me - saying he's sick and tired of me not going to see him, my disrespectful behavior, my irresponsible way...you get the idea. I'm not saying much back at this point - which infuriates him further. Finally, he says, "until you want a father, don't ever bother me again!". I say, "Really!" and hang up the phone.
That was November, 1991 - and we are still not talking to this day. He did make a short-lived attempt at reconnecting a while back, but his continued poor actions did not make up for the words of apology.
Sadly, I get students who cry each year I tell this story. Sadder still is the fact that many (too many) of my students have gone through situations that mirror mine. In the end, I become a father figure to many of my students - and that is just fine with me! I embrace that role and take comfort in the idea that I just may be making a difference beyond the classroom in an arena more important than education.
For more True Story Tuesday check out Rachel.