35: Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

35: Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.

~Rudyard Kipling

I’ve been a substitute teacher for nearly a decade. I’m in a classroom one day and out the next. The closest I’ve ever come to being a “real” teacher were some long-term assignments that lasted anywhere from one month to an entire school year.

I rarely get to have an effect on the life of a student, and I don’t have the benefit of finding out later, as I have already moved on. But I’m pretty sure that I made an impact the time I landed a long-term assignment at a juvenile detention center.

There were only twenty-four students in the entire school, and all of them except one seemed to be cooperating. The one holdout would come into my reading class, sit at his desk, and do nothing for ninety minutes. If he failed his classes, he would either be sent to the normal prison or have to repeat his sentence at this school, and he was already repeating once. I needed to reach this student so he wouldn’t be sent to the normal prison.

One day, I asked him what he wanted to do when he got out of the program. He told me he really wanted to work on cars in a shop.

This got me thinking. My brother had been in an automotive program when he was in high school many years before, and I recalled there were textbooks he had studied. Later that day, I went to the head of the program and told him about the student not wanting to do any work. I explained that I was worried he would repeat the program again, or worse, and that I wanted to try reaching him with an automotive textbook. I got permission to try, with the stipulation that I would have to pay for any books myself.

I ended up buying a used automotive textbook online for $18. The next day, I told the student that I had purchased this book for him to use in reading class. He asked, “How much was it?” I told him. Then his eyes almost filled with tears as he replied, “You spent $18 for me?”

In that moment, I realized it wasn’t about the book. He was surprised that someone would worry about his education, about his possibly being moved to the normal prison. He didn’t know that anyone cared enough about his future to spend their own money for him.

When the book came in a few days later, he devoured it. I assigned sections of it for reading comprehension, and once he answered the questions, he kept reading. He kept a dictionary nearby. When he came across a word he couldn’t find in the dictionary, he would ask me.

He didn’t repeat another year. I never did find out if he ended up working in a repair shop, but I’d be willing to bet that he did.

~Bradley Hall

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