Educators from across Indianapolis gathered to tell stories about the joys and heartbreaks of teaching at a storytelling event hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy. Chalkbeat sharing a few of our favorites, edited for clarity.
Katie Speer is a middle school teacher at KIPP Indy. For more stories about Indianapolis educators, see our occasional series “What’s Your Education Story?”.
This story centers around a student that I taught last year. He was in my homeroom, and this student was literally everyone’s best friend. He could meet someone and then they would be best friends. His smile lit up the room. His laughter was echoing in the lunchroom. Everyone loved him.
The problem was, I taught him at the end of the day. By the time he got to me at 2:50, he was worn out from just bringing joy to the world.
He’d come to my class, and he’d be like, “Hey Miss Speer!” And I’d be like, “Hey, how are you?”
And then five minutes into my class, he’d be (snoring), just out, out to the world. I would call his name out in my class. I’d walk over. I would tap him.
Then I moved his seat, directly to the left of me. And every minute, I would just poke him. Over time, he was immune to my pokes.
I was like, “OK. We got to figure this out. You are not passing my class, but you are brilliant. We have to fix this.”
So my solution was, I had to start calling home. His dad was great. He would be ready to answer the phone during my class. The second his head would start to go, I’d be like, “no, we are calling dad.”
And he hated it. It was the only thing that I could get to work. And he was like, “Oh, you are the worst. You are petty. You are lame. I hate you.” All of that.
I actually called his dad four days in a row, and he was so mad at me. But then, the next progress report came out and he was passing my class.
I’m like, “OK. I can do this. I can go home every day and feel like he hates me, but it’s working.”
At my school, we do this thing called shout-outs. We end every day on a positive note. The students have the floor, and they shout out someone in their homeroom.
He’s like, “I have a shout-out, I have a shout-out.”
He said, “Miss Speer, I would like to shout you out for always calling home. Even though I say that I hate it, I know that you do it because you love me, and I know that you do it because you want to make a difference, and that means a lot to me.”
The school year goes on, and he passes all of his classes. And it’s time for promotion. We always gather in homerooms to prep for promotion and go over the details one more time. And he shows up in suit pants, the nicest dress shoes, this beautiful suit vest and this bowtie and a bright yellow button-up.
And he’s like, “Miss Speer take a picture of all the boys. Miss Speer take a picture of the whole class. Miss Speer just take a picture of me, because I look great.”
The night comes to an end, and I’m literally standing on the sidewalk waiting for people to get picked up and I’m just sobbing.
He gives me a hug and he’s like, “Everything is going to be great. Thank you for being my teacher. Thank you for being great. You are going to be fine. We are going to be fine. I’m going to be fine. It’s gonna be good.”
I would love for that to be the end of this story.
But unfortunately, three weeks into summer, he was killed in an act of gun violence.
I think that although this story isn’t happy, it’s something that I want to share because everyday, I am pushed to be a better person and a better teacher. In his memory, sometimes I do the tough things or I go the extra mile, or I make those calls that I really didn’t want to make because I know that I’m going to hear it from the student, because I know that it matters. I want to continue to be that person.
Shout out to all the teachers who do that every single day, because it’s hard to make the hard phone calls. It’s hard to go the extra mile. It’s really hard to go home and feel like you are not on their side. But it matters. It makes a difference.
Shout out to him because he makes me a better person every single day.