I ran into a former student the other day. (This will happen more now that I live in the same community where I teach.) However, this random encounter was probably a lot less random than I had originally thought.

It was almost five years ago that I had a knock on my classroom door that would forever change the way I treated my students. It was early in the morning before the buses had arrived, and before the halls were swarming with hormone filled teenagers. A female student (who shall remain unnamed because of the sensitive nature of the experience) asked if she could talk.  I could tell that she had been crying, and that the conversation was going to be emotional. We went out into the Pod (shared common area) to talk.

I explained to her that, as a teacher, I am legally responsible to inform authorities of certain information i.e. child abuse of any kind, neglect, and so on. Without going into details, the conversation we had was a conversation that I was going to have to report to counselors, administrators, and Child Services. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, I just listened. Talking to someone was the first step in changing her situation.

As a first year teacher, this experience was completely eye opening.  I did not expect this sort of thing to happen so quick. I was trained at the district for situation like this, but it’s much different when it actually happens. Shortly after this conversation, the student withdrew from the school, and I never found out what the final resolution was until a few days ago.

I went to pick up Pizza with three of my boys. As we were getting ready to order some pizza, a girl’s voice said, “Mr. Campbell?” My mind raced through the 700 plus names of former students until the above conversation came back to me. I asked her how she was doing, if she was driving yet, and how her mom was. We made small talk for a few minutes and then she started to get teary eyed. She explained that legal action had been taken, judgments were given, that family was torn apart, and that she and her mom where in a much better place. I told her how happy I was for her.

Before she left with her order, she thanked me and told me how much we (Myself, and the two teachers on my team ) meant to her. She thanked me for listening, and went on her way.

I can’t explain how much this five minute conversation meant to me. Not only did I get to hear that there was a resolution to this tragic situation, but that I had made a difference in this young women’s life.

At the end of the day, after all meetings, grading, politics, stress, hoops, and stuff teachers do, it’s good to have experiences that let us know we made a difference.