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A few days ago, our school received the tragic news that we had lost one of our own – a young student who was well-liked and respected by students and teachers alike.

He was so liked and so respected that news of his sudden death shook up the entire school. Those of us who had him in class past or present were especially shocked and pained. Tears were shed as we sat around our tables, absorbing the painful news. As a teacher, one of the worst things you can hear is that a student won’t ever walk the graduation line because his life had been cut short.

I find myself mourning not only by his death, but also the potential that was lost when this child’s life was ended. He had come to our school looking for a fresh start, and he found it. Had I not heard snippets of his past, I would never have guessed his history. The child he was then was not the child I saw before me. Sure, he was not perfect and still had hurdles to leap, but he was making progress. And I, like so many of my fellow teachers, was proud of him. This was the kid who spoke to you respectfully and offered to help out every now and again. This was the kid we would find ourselves bragging about from time to time. Was this real? Would we never see him again?

Despite the sadness I feel, I still trust in God and His plan. I know that God would never wish this kind of pain on His children, but He will make something beautiful out of this blemish that has scarred our community. The words of my principal have also helped. She pointed out to her faculty that although one of our students would never grace our halls again, we had made his life pleasant while he was within our walls. He had come to us seeking to start over, and he was able to because we allowed him to. No one shunned him or shamed him; rather, it seemed like most welcomed him. My husband comforted me with his words, as well. Using a metaphor to describe the student’s life, he said, “You got to remember… he found himself in a race. At one point, he wasn’t running a good one. He saw that he wasn’t doing well and wanted to change that. So he did. By the time he finished, he was running a better race in life. Yeah, his run was cut too short, far before his time, but at least he was in a better place.”

There are vital lessons I take from this event, lessons that I already knew but had taken for granted. Until now. While most of the general public rates a school based on its test scores, students are going to “rate” us based on how treat them. Teachers DO make a difference, and that difference can never be measured by any battery. One kind word can open many doorways. More importantly, just as we have an impact on our students, they, too, have an impact on us. The ones who treat us with respect and kindness, as this young man did, make our days brighter and encourage us to continue fighting our good fight. The particular lesson I learned from this particular student is that we should never hold a person’s past against him or her; we must give someone a chance and get to know him or her without any prejudices before we come to conclusions about that person’s character.

Sadly, death can also bring out the worst in people. Due to the nature of his death, people find themselves speculating and making judgment calls, some of which are just simply unfair and unkind. No matter what vicious rumors may spread about this young man, I will only remember the things I witnessed for myself. While he was in my classroom, he was a good kid. That is how I choose to remember him by. And that is all that matters.

(In memory of Domonic Davis. I pray God comforts all your loved ones during their darkest hour.)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Mrs. Filler, or Savage Fill to her students, has been teaching high school English for a decade. In...

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