She wanted to see me after class. And she didn’t look very happy either. Which is never a good sign, but with her even worse. She tends to have a natural happiness over her. More importantly she dares to be different in a culture where everybody is afraid to fall out of fashion with the group. Where girls can be really nasty to someone who isn’t exactly like them. Where appearance is so important several girls have no problem sitting in the class room with a little mirror reapplying their make up. Not that she doesn’t care, she certainly does. But getting your hair dyed bright red is not their idea of beauty, whereas she knows that it suits her, even though she will get stick for it. Next to that she actually does her homework. Not only that, she even does more than asked sometimes. When there is little homework, she anticipates and does next weeks share as well. This makes her stand out even more. The majority of 16 to 18 years old think that homework is for fanatic students and being fanatic certainly isn’t cool. Bringing the correct book into class is an offer that some do sometimes make.
Still, she is not the automatic odd one out, she talks a lot, mingles brilliantly with the rest of her class, she is just about the ideal student in my eyes. Not one of those I-am-good-and-I-will-do-everything-to-pl
She has always been very open with everyone around here. We knew her boyfriend was about to get ditched before he knew. We knew about Saturday nights, while at home they didn’t. Now, while the rest is running to catch the bus she sits in front of me and looks sad. She doesn’t know where to begin and I’m not sure why I am talking to her. Her group teacher is not the easiest teacher to approach, but I have my own group and plenty of problems. Not that I would even consider telling her that, if I can do something for her, I will. The story comes out in waves. Problems at home, parents who behave weird, hit her, treat her bad. Her brother who has a different set of rules from her. An ex-boyfriend who is slowly turning into a stalker, the meaning of life, it has all become too much for her. Tears are flowing and I feel like she is desperate for a hug, that my shoulder would be of help, but I know that it wouldn’t be a good way to solve it. I can’t solve anything, but I can listen. Just being there for her to tell her story at the moment is enough help. I offer her to find professional help, but she already had some and lost her faith in them. We talk for an hour and I tell of similar moments in my life, to comfort her. I tell her everything will be okay, though I’m not convinced it will be. I tell her that she should come to me again, should she need professional help. We talk about life and everything it has to offer. It seems cliché, but the tear and the smile both appear. She leaves grateful when she leaves an hour later, though she knows that her mother will ask her why she is late.
A few months have passed since. She is still there, seems back to her normal self. With everyone around I don’t want to ask her how things are going, though a look sometimes tells me enough. I’m glad to be able to teach her. I’m proud that she came to me to talk, even though I wasn’t the first or even second obvious choice. I hope she’ll manage in the following year. I guess in a year’s time she will have her work placement, she’ll pick a place far from home. And then go to a college somewhere on her own. I know she’ll manage. She is much stronger than she herself realises.