He sat in the third row, holding his daughter in his arms. Cradled between a tattoo of ripped flesh and a row a Celtic letters, she smiled and reached for me as I walked over.
We were in the school cafeteria, which doubles for our theater on the nights I put on a play, and one of my recent graduates had come to see the performance. Last year, he was the star; this year, he's struggling with classes, a part-time job, and a fledgling family.
Still, he said, everything is going well for him. He likes his school, he's planning his wedding, and he enjoyed the play.
"And guess what, Ms. Flower," he said. "I'm starting my theater classes next semester."
"Really," I answered. Well, he'll find them much more intense than my classes, that's for sure. "What made you want to take a theater class?"
"You did," he replied. "Because, remember what you said?"
No, obviously I didn't, because I do say a lot of things. Then he quoted one of my favorite classroom speeches, the one I like to give when my kids complain about the amount of work we're doing, or the book we're reading, or how none of this is going to help them in the Real World.
"You said," he began, "that I should graduate from high school, go to college, take thousands of dollars worth of classes, graduate, take approximately one billion certification tests, get a job here, and THEN I could tell you how to teach your theater class."
Well. I DID say that ...
"So that's what I'm gonna do," he said. "I'm gonna take your job."
You guys. This is a kid who was thisclose to dropping out, just because he hated our school so much. He was different, all his clothes were black and baggy, he wore nail polish and eye liner, he didn't listen to FM100, and he announced in the middle of the fall semester that he was going to be a dad.
He was probably the last person you'd think of recommending for a teaching program.
But he told me this, and my jaw dropped, and I got a little teary, and I started grinning.
"That's great!" I said. "I'll be happy to hand it off to you."
I had to ask myself, who was it that set this kid on the road to Teacherville?
And I had to answer myself honestly: ME. I DID.
Well. This must be what it feels like to win an Oscar.