A baby on my hip, a caffeinated beverage in hand, and my favorite bookstore: It was a cold day in the middle of February and I was on maternity leave. I had the urgent need to get out of the house that only an exhausted mother of a newborn can appreciate. As I came around the corner of the young adult section (as a high school English teacher, this is obviously my favorite part of any bookstore), I looked over and recognized a floppy mop of blonde hair. “Hi! Mrs. Crumrine!”
“Hi Dylan! It is so good to see you!” I meant it. Dylan had been a student in an English credit recovery course I taught a few years before. He liked coming to school but he didn’t like doing school. He had failed nearly every course his freshman year because he didn’t complete any work. He came to school nearly every day and sat through nearly every class, but didn’t do a thing. He would participate, engage with his teachers, and participate in group work, but he just couldn’t follow through outside of the classroom. I don’t think he ever graduated.
He had good reason not to. Dylan had solid academic skills, but life got in the way. His mom had recently been released from prison on drug charges and his older brother was about to become a dad at the age of 18. His mom worked at a local fast food restaurant, and he often only had dinner on the nights she worked, because that was where they got their food. He was often disheveled and wore the same clothes every day.
I adored Dylan. He was fun to have in class, polite and honest. And Dylan loved to read. He devoured books. He especially loved dystopia, fantasy, zombies and vampires. I couldn’t keep up with his habits and by the end of the year he had read close to 30 books. The last time I saw him was on the last day of school. He almost bumped into me because his nose was buried in a book as he walked out of school. The final book in his favorite series had been released earlier that week and he had been telling me about it for weeks. “I got it!” He told me with a grin as he held up the library book with pride.
So when I asked him what he was doing in the bookstore that day, his reply did not surprise me: “Oh I’m just waiting at the bus stop and thought I’d come in and take a look around.” He still loved books.
“Go pick out a book and I’ll buy it for you,” I told him.
He stopped in his tracks. “Really?”
“Yes. Really.” His eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. What I thought would take us under 10 minutes, turned into a 30-minute search for the just right book. We enlisted the help of a salesperson and between the two of us kept offering suggestions to Dylan. He would slowly look through each offering as though it were a precious stone, gently fingering the edges of the paper, reading the back, and then returning it to us. “No, not that one,” he would say quietly.
I realized that Dylan was taking so long because he wanted his selection to be perfect. This was important to him and he didn’t want to waste this gift he had been given. My baby started to fuss the longer this took, but I kept bouncing her as I patiently gave Dylan the time he needed. My caffeinated beverage had grown cold.
Dylan finally settled on a $30 hardcover edition of a book whose name I have since forgotten. It doesn’t matter anyway.
“Mrs. Crumrine, thank you so much.” He walked out the door to return to the bus stop. He had missed the bus but he sat down on the bench and began to read his book as he waited for the next one.
The saleslady looked at me and said, “That was a really nice thing you did for him.”
“It was nothing,” I replied. The truth is, Dylan had already given me much more.
That. That moment. That’s why I love teaching.
NNSTOY believes expert teachers will lead the way to a more equitable and exceptional future for all kids. Do you agree? Then help ensure that great teacher voices keep coming your way by donating to NNSTOY now. Donate Now →