A long time ago I used to teach English to teenagers at Robert Louis Stevenson School here in Samoa. And they used to teach me lots of other far more valuable stuff. Like how NOT to win a popularity contest with teenagers. (dont tell them off in front of their boyfriends from St Joe. Because then that night when everyone is watching a school production of Macbeth, the boyfriends will come and scratch MS WENDT IS A BITCH’ on your new silver car.) And lifelong career advice – “Miss, why did you become a teacher? Youre so smart that you could have really been somebody you know? You could have been something great like a lawyer or a doctor!” …but i digress. What i really wanted to say was that last week i opened up the newspaper and saw one of my former students getting admitted to the Bar. She’s a lawyer and has grown into a beautiful and confident young woman. And i looked at her picture, as she stood there with her very proud parents and family and i was very happy for her. And i wanted to congratulate her. And i wanted to ask her – do you remember a day a loooong time ago…..
When you were a fourth former struggling to find your place in the world? In the cat scratch cat, dog eat dog world of inter-teenage-relations? And we had mid year exams and a group of girls got busted for cheating? And in that group were a lot of the super-cool, super-assured, people? And at the close of that day as i was walking to my car, I bumped into you at the foot of the stairs, crying? Because, as you said to me with lots of sobs – “they always leave me out of everything. I try so hard to be in with their group and they wont let me, they never told me they were planning that, they never even asked me if i wanted to be in on it with them…” Yup thats right. You were upset because they didnt get you to cheat with them. ( i hope you’re shaking your head with as much disbelief as i felt at that moment many years ago!) And so we chatted for a bit and among other things, i clearly recall saying to you ( with all the wisdom of my hundreds of years on this planet) – “One day, all of this wont matter one bit. One day, you will be wildly successful and amazing and whether or not some of the ‘cool kids’ took you along with them on every harebrained scheme they embarked on, will be just a laughable, ridiculous memory. Keep doing what your doing. You dont need to be like them to be happy.” ( damn, did i say that? Im good!)
I remembered all these things when i saw your picture in the paper. And i smiled. And was grateful that a long time ago, i got a chance to be your teacher. And that you proved me right! (goes some way towards making up for all the times i DIDNT do the teaching thing right….)