Hindsight: In Need of Lasik Surgery

I think it is particularly fitting, on the day of the big “Student Whisperer” giveaway, to feature a post, penned by a “Student Whisperer.” Tim Driver has impacted thousands of lives during his teaching and mentoring career.  Part of what makes him such an effective Whisperer is the transparency that he exhibits both with those he mentors in the classroom and through the written word. His honesty is so appreciated.  I hope you enjoy and benefit from this as much as I did.
TeriSig



When one has a lot of experience at something…

sometimes the tendency can be to predict how things “should” happen…

and then to try and make them a reality.

When things don’t go as planned…

it can lead to frustration and resentment…

because the rest of the universe is unaware of the plan…

and therefore circumstances and powerful forces are uncooperative.

Such was my plight with Nathan and Austin.

A quick profile:

Nathan- Mostly A’s and B’s…

a year ahead of the “standard track” in math…

and very articulate in speech and written communication as well.
Austin-  Mostly…okay…

ALL F’s… a year ahead of most 3rd grade math tracks…

and…

well dude…

like not very…good at talking…

and stuff like that.

For some unknown reason…

both ended up in my at-risk program.

Nathan didn’t belong there.

He could be a little squirrely at times…

but what 9th grade boy isn’t?

Nathan had a knack for helping Austin with his work…

explaining it in ways that only Austin would understand.

It was admirable.

After the better part of 2 years with us…

it was time for both to move on to high school.

The good news was that our program…

was on the campus of the high school…

they were going to attend…

so I could track their progress.

Much to my shock…

Austin must’ve accidentally…

gotten into a batch of mental steroids…

because he actually earned…

enough credits to graduate…

on time.

To my further jaw dropping dismay…

Nathan quit just one semester short of graduating…

lacking only minimal work…

which for him should have been so easy to accomplish.

I was so proud of Austin!

His giant hug for me…

after walking across the platform…

was a paycheck that supported me…

for years to come.

In fact…

I’m still living off of it a bit.

I was internally angry at Nathan, however.

If I had been honest with myself…

I was angry that he hadn’t accomplished…

“something that even Austin could do.”

Shame on me.

I also had a bit…

of the classic teacher guilt…

thinking maybe there was more…

I could have done.

He seemed like such…

a success “slam dunk”…

that perhaps I coasted a bit…

when I could have accelerated.

Almost a year…

after he should have graduated…

Nathan and I crossed paths.

He was my waiter…

at an Italian restaurant.

When he saw me…

he hung his head.

“Hi Mr. Driver…

I know what you’re going to say.”

“What might that be Nathan?”

“You’re disappointed in me for not graduating.

But I am going back to finish and I’ll be done in a few weeks.”

“Good for you, Nathan.”

( I outwardly lied )

He knew how I felt.

Just as I…

could read those kids…

like a book…

they had the equal book…

on me…

without a word needing to be said.

“I’m sorry I let you down.”

“No, Nathan…

I thought you let yourself down.

You are a very talented young man.

I want you to become someone great.”

“I promise you I will.”

I tipped him well…

since I thought…

he might be stuck…

in that job for awhile.


Now fast forward about 10 years.

There had been no headlines…

of a cure for cancer…

with Nathan’s name on them…

no missions to the moon…

not even a sign of him…

in the new teacher pool…

as he had been quite adept…

at helping Austin…

out of the muck of Moron-opolis.

Nothing.

Until…

I ran into Nathan again…

this time at 7-11.

I was praying to God…

that he was buying a slurpee…

and not servicing the machine…

as I approached him with caution.

I looked down…

and saw…

that he had…

two little kids with him.

“Nathan…

it is great to see you!”

“Mr. Driver…

I’d like to introduce you…

to my kids.”

Cuter kids…

they could not have been!

We chit-chatted…

and he told me about his career…

how he had finished his diploma…

gone on to college…

and  was now working…

as a project manager…

for a very high end company.

I started to feel my guilt lift…

as though Nathan…

had finally

lived up to my expectations.

Clearly once and for all…

the universe was back…

under my jurisdiction.

That’s right about the time…

my world got rocked.

After Nathan left the store…

the person behind the counter…

asked me how I knew him.

I told him …

he was a former student…

and that I was very proud…

to see his success.

“I imagine…

you’re extremely proud of him…

for overcoming such a tragedy.”

“What tragedy?”

“Nathan’s wife…

was killed by a drunk driver…

and he has raised those kids…

by himself for the last 3 years…

doing an incredible job of it.

We held a fundraiser here…

for the family…

but he put the money…

into a fund for his kids…

since he is doing fine financially.

I have never heard him…

complain once…

about his circumstances.

He brings his kids…

in here all the time…

and I’m telling you…

he is an amazing dad.

He is…

very well respected…

in this entire community.”

Immediately…

I heard the ghost of Nathan past…

say to me…

“I promise you…

I will become someone great.”

Promise kept…

and expectations exceeded.

Here I thought in hindsight…

I had been right

about Nathan all along…

since he had lived up to…

what society would call successful.

I was blind to the fact…

that he had always been a caregiver…

getting his caring residency…

with Austin…

which was preparing him…

for that huge challenge

for which he was destined.

I was heartbroken…

that I couldn’t go hunt him down…

hug him…

and tell him how sorry I was…

for my blurred foresight and hindsight.

He had success in his soul

and I had underestimated him.

I am hopeful…

we will cross paths again someday…

and I will let him know…

student to teacher…

the lessons I learned from him.

In the meantime…

never underestimate…

the kids you have…

under your charge and care.

Treat them with respect and optimism…

for one day…

the roles might be reversed…

and they will teach you…

some very valuable lessons.

Best,
Tim

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Comments

  1. 1
    Christy says:

    Thank you Tim – for sharing this very important lesson…as a Mother/teacher and as a professional/teacher – I give my all 99% of the time. I ALWAYS wonder about former students too… which one will be on the 6:00 news and for WHAT??? I have printed out today’s post so on THOSE days when I wonder what I’m actually doing and if anything is getting through to them, I will read this.

    Tim Reply:
    April 1st, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I applaud you, Christy for being willing to take on the challenge of teaching day in and day out……….. I know what it’s like to be in the trenches. My hat is off to you!
    Best,
    tim

  2. 2
    Jessica Oyelowo says:

    WOW. It’s so easy to forget the truly important stuff of life and fill our expectations with formulas that we think will make one ‘great’.
    Thank you for your honesty, Tim and for reminding us of the precious qualities so easily overlooked in others.
    Jess.

    Tim Reply:
    April 1st, 2011 at 8:27 am

    It is that attention to the “hidden qualities” that motivates kids to keep trying.
    Thanks Jess,
    tim

  3. 3
    Heather Remund says:

    What a wonderful lesson. I think we all get sucked into the trap of what we think/assume of our kids and we fail to see the big picture. The story of Nathan will be a great reminder for me to not presume I know what is going on with my own kids or the kids we work with in soccer but to try and really see the whole story and step into their shoes for a moment.

    Tim Reply:
    April 1st, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Heather you are exactly right. Sports often masks these types of things because we can mistakenly assign value to kids simply because they have physical talents in a sport. Looking beyond that I a true gift for a coach to give his/her players.

  4. 4
    Stephanie says:

    Now that was quite the tearjerker to start my morning! Appreciate the insight on that one.

  5. 5
    Stephanie says:

    Now that was quite the tearjerker to start my morning! Appreciate the insight on that one.

  6. 6
    Stephanie says:

    Sorry, when I submit on my phone I get the response, “Not found” so I went and checked and my comment wasn’t there. So I retyped and reentered. Apparently the first time worked. :)

  7. 7
    Andrea says:

    Hi I just was told about your blog earlier this morning and was reading this and that of previous posts. I went to google Tim Driver as his name is typed in a different color but there is no link. Is this Tim Driver the sweet man that passed away in Sept? This is the article I am referring to: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/highschoolsports/2016241053_driver18.html

    Thank you for sharing his story of Nathan and Austin. It is truly a touching one.
    Thank you.
    Andrea in Calif.

    Teri Reply:
    February 21st, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Andrea,
    Yes, that is the Tim Driver that passed away. He is also my brother. I’m so glad you enjoyed the story of Nathan and Austin. It happens to be one of many favorites. Thank you for commenting as well. XO, ;0)

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