Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brandon - A Story From a Teacher Who Loves Her Job and Her Kids

Four years ago, February 17th became a sad day for me. It has become a day that I will always step back and remind myself that teaching is not just teaching, it is so much more than just that. It is about loving the kids that sit in our classrooms, respecting them, smiling with them, making them feel special, and most importantly, realizing that they are not annoyances or a test score…they are people. People that will leave our classrooms and become someone…mothers, fathers, friends, and professionals. At least that is what we hope for them.

Four years ago, I taught at Murray Fly Elementary school in Odessa. That is where I met Brandon. Brandon did not get to leave my classroom to go on to be a father, or even a high school graduate. Brandon passed away.

He was hit by a car while riding a motor bike on February 9th. I found out the morning of the 10th. The kids were running to me and telling me that Brandon was hit by a car and had to be picked up by a helicopter. At first I didn’t know how much to believe so I waited for more information. My principal found me a few minutes later, telling me that he was air lifted to Lubbock from the middle of the street. I was scared.

Brandon was a tall, skinny cutie pie with glasses. He did not come from a wholesome family. He did not come from money. He was proud of everything he owned. In fact, the day he was hit by the car, he was showing off his shoes to me and refused to get them dirty. I will never forget that conversation as long as I live. I even remember that his mom bought them for him outside of Lowe’s grocery store. Brandon was a second year fifth grader. He did not pass his TAKS tests the year before. The day I got my class list that year, I remember a teacher coming to me saying “oh, you got Brandon…well, good luck with that”. I try to ignore those comments. Brandon did great that year. I loved having him in my room. I once told my team-teacher, “You know, I love that kid”. I really did love him.

On February 11th, I decided that I needed to go to Lubbock. I asked my mom to go with me because I knew that with her support, I could do anything. She drove me there. I walked in to the hospital that night, with absolutely no clue of what I was about to see. When I turned the corner of the room in children’s ICU, my jaw dropped. There lied Brandon, lifeless Brandon. He was attached to every machine you could imagine. There were tubes everywhere. The worst part…his glasses were gone. I walked up to him and was proud to announce the 87 that he got on his benchmark his last day of school. His parents beamed. I just wish Brandon could have known. He would have been so proud of himself and walked a little taller that day! Oh, and he would have told every teacher in that building about his 87! He had two nieces that he walked to class every morning. He spoke to every teacher along the way.

While I was there, the doctor walked in. I introduced myself as Brandon’s favorite teacher! The doctor got a surprised look on his face. He asked me if I would join him for a few minutes. I obliged. He begins to explain to me that Brandon’s parents did not understand the seriousness of the situation. He showed me the x-rays and explained that the left half of Brandon’s brain was dead. He explained that it was not coming back. Then, he asked me to explain to this to the parents. What!? How was I going to do this?
My mom put her arm on my shoulders as I sat with them in Brandon’s room. I explained to them the situation and expressed how sorry I was. This was the hardest thing I had done. I kept thinking, “They didn’t prepare me for this in college”.

I drove home that night. And back the next. I would go to school, check on my students there, and then my mom would pick me up and we would head to Lubbock. This became a routine for the next few days. Our school took up collections and the kids made Valentines for me to take him. His room was full of colorful Valentine’s from his classmates…and teacher!

On February 17th, his parents decided to turn off the ventilator. He died in minutes. He died. Even as I type that, my arms go numb, it hurts so badly.

The days after were a blur. On the morning of the 18th, counselors came into my room and told the kids that Brandon had passed away. Some cried, some doodled on paper the whole time, some didn’t understand. I did not cry…I just hugged. The counselors talked with them and let them grieve.

At the visitation at the funeral home, we walked into a room with a small casket. Brandon was wearing his favorite shirt and…his glasses! A slideshow played above him and hanging on the skirt of his casket was a card that had his name in very bright colors. It was the Valentine that I had made him. His parents told me that he loved me. I loved him too.

The next day at the funeral I saw all of my students. All dressed up and holding hands with their parents. I still felt the need to be strong. So I would turn around and wink at them or reach behind me and hold their hands. It was not easy. At the graveside, a very tall boy walked up to me and gave me a big bear hug. When I got a good look at his face, it was Gabe, a student in my first class of fifth graders. I realized how grown up he was. It was so great to see him and hear of how great he was doing. I was a proud teacher.

Since that day, it hit me that these kids we teach are people. I had always known this, but it never HIT me. We only get a snapshot of their lives. We should do all we can to make a mark. They are people. They are future wives and husbands, mommies and daddies. It always makes me think of my first year of teaching. I would hear all of the teachers discuss students with words that bothered me. I would hear “oh, you will love her, she made commended performance”, or “he’s sweet, but didn’t pass that math test”. Our students are not just a score.

Brandon reminds me of that. Brandon made a good mark on my heart. He was a sweet, sweet boy. He cared. He was proud of what he had. He loved his teacher. I am glad it was me.

A few days later his parents and sister came to get his stuff out of his desk. I asked if I could keep his paper clip holder. He loved that paper clip holder. I keep it on my desk now. I also kept his lunch-punch card with his picture on it. As his family was leaving, I looked down. His sister was wearing his favorite shoes that he and I shared a conversation about the day of his accident.

I am so thankful to get to be his teacher. I am thankful for this entire experience. I, at the time, was not living as a Christian. I know that Gods Grace is what got me through this experience. It was at this time that I began to pray again, to trust in Him again. I had so many questions. Was Brandon in Heaven? I knew that he was not a Christian; he had never been witnessed to. This experience drew me closer to God. It taught me that living my life as a Christian is so important. Walking in the Christian lifestyle with Christian values is a witness to people.

My relationship to Christ is strong now. I know that this is the time that it became evident to me that I need Christ in my life. That Christ died for me. He died for me to take away the burden of my sin. He carries that sin for me. He forgives. Please don’t let your relationship to Christ surface due to a terrible situation you are in. Let this story, my experience; open your eyes to Christ. Let me be a witness to you. Let me sing of his praises and teach you of His grace. God is good. None of us are good people, we are born sinners. But, he forgives. He SAVES.

God is sovereign. God created everything. He has plans for us. All happens for a reason, His reason. Sometimes we may never understand why things happen. I don’t know the reason for Brandon’s death. I do believe that it was supposed to happen. God’s timing is perfect. I trust in Him and thank Him for the opportunity he gave me four years ago. I thank him for Brandon’s smile, I thank Him for the opportunity to be Brandon’s teacher, and I thank Him for opening my eyes to what teaching really is.


Morris Brooks said...

Only until we give up ourselves to the sovereignty of God can we truly be free.

Great post....Christi should consider writing more.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story of love. This young boy was blessed to have such a caring, loving teacher and this teacher was blessed to be given this opportunity to display Christ's love.

I think I will share this at my school.

Little sis