I woke up not feeling well, nothing too surprising given our cold weather lately. I knew the asthma was kicking in a little stronger than usual which, combined with the headache and exhaustion, meant today would physically be a tough day. As I muddled my way through my morning routine, I thought about what my work day actually had in store for me. I was supposed to pull a student out of class to discuss transition planning, run an IEP meeting, meet with the community problem solvers about their project and attend our team leader meeting after school. Neither the IEP nor the team leader meeting actually required my attendance and I could easily push my other two appointments to tomorrow.
I thought about staying home; my warm bed seemed to call out to me and I knew I could scrounge up some soup for later. It was tempting, but I really felt like I needed to be at work, even if I had to call it quits early. Not showing up just wasn’t me, so I slammed the last of my coffee and made my way to the local high school.
Not fifteen minutes after my (late) arrival, my first appointment walks into my office. I was impressed – I didn’t have to call him out of class. He remembered and took the initiative to show up on time, as scheduled. Smiling to myself, I thought of his parting words as he left the last time we met for his annual review. “You won’t forget me, right?” I had assured him that as long as he was on my calendar, I would not forget him. I closed out my email and turned the computer so we could work together.
At his annual review, he had asked about becoming a doctor and we were meeting today so I could help him explore this career field. At our first meeting, when he mentioned becoming a doctor, I pointed out he must love school. He didn’t fully understand, so I explained that earning a medical degree would take him the eight years or so after high school. He shook his head, saying maybe not quite a doctor, but that he wanted to help people. I told him there were many careers in the medical field and that I would help find the right one for him.
So when we started, I had my thoughts all ready for how we would proceed. He surprises me again, sharing he had to go to a clinic so he had asked some of the staff there what they do. He knew there was a technician there but he was really thinking that he would like to be a CNA. I explained those are both great careers and that we’d start with researching them. We jumped into a website dedicated to high school transition and started our exploration. I searched “nursing” and several related careers popped up, including CNA, LPN and RN. I explained the difference (as best I understood it) to him. He grabbed scrap paper and took notes, not just writing the acronyms, but what they actually meant and stood for. We started by looking up CNA. I read the job expectations to him and we watched a quick video about this career. He really liked it. He said he likes working with his hands and that he does not want to just sit around and do paperwork all day. I can so relate! I shared that the bulk of my career involves paperwork and that this, working directly with students, is my favorite part of what I do.
We moved on, exploring RN next and watching a similar video. He asked questions – lots of them and really good ones. He wasn’t afraid to tell me when he didn’t understand something. We dug deeper into all three careers, looking at the salary, employment projections and amount of schooling necessary. But he asked me to return to the CNA section. He says that this is exactly what he wants to do. He tells me that education is important and he wants to get a good education so he can help others. He looks at me and says “like you”. I wasn’t sure what he meant – I’m not a nurse. He must have read the confusion on my face, he explained, “You’re amazing. You take time to help kids like me get my education. It’s really cool.” I almost cried.
Shortly thereafter, the bell rang and we made an appointment for next week so we can explore colleges for him to attend. Next year is his senior year and he’s going to have a lot to do to get ready.
It’s days like today that I’m reminded so bluntly why, when I’m struggling to breathe, I still go to work. It’s not because I need a high school kid telling me I’m “cool” or “amazing”, which were his choice of words. I do it because that high school kid needs to know that I will never forget him, that I truly believe in him and that I will continue to do anything possible to help him get his education so he can help others.