Love changes things  

Published 6:21 am Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Summer’s heat lingers as school bells ring heralding vacation’s end. Teachers and staff head back ready for a new crop of students. The first few days usually set the tone for the year, or so I always thought.

A particular student comes to mind as one who severely tried my patience. I fondly recall our time together as both challenging and productive. We’ll call him Billy to protect the guilty! Billy entered our high school GED class in the middle of the year.

The counselors at the high school where I worked tried to keep students on the traditional track for graduation. When it appeared unlikely that a student would stay the course until the coveted diploma was in hand we began to scrutinize his records to determine if my class might be an alternative for him.

I ran a tight ship and expected hard work and determination from my students. A couple of them decided to try their hand at regular high school again when they figured it might be easier than buckling down for my class!

I was tough because I knew the alternative to making it through could be jail or worse. Most of my students loved and respected me when they realized I truly did have their best interests at heart. Occasionally, a really hard case came along, and it took him a little time to figure things out.

Billy skulked into the room with pants sagging and a smart aleck smirk plastered on his face. The students and I introduced ourselves and discussed class rules. Billy appeared unimpressed. In fact, he made rude remarks whenever the spirit moved him.

Billy, like many of my students, came from a rough situation, and I didn’t want to give up on him. When he was out of the room I instructed the class to ignore his behavior and continue with their work. They knew, and I knew that it was only a matter of time until he would have to leave. His behavior could not get in the way of the other students’ progress.

Day after day I brought Billy before the Lord in prayer. I asked for wisdom and patience. I prayed for the tough shell surrounding Billy’s heart to soften. Day after day he sat in the back of the room glaring at me and refusing to do his work. I understood that his steely stare covered hurt and discouragement. Time after time I determined to give Billy just one more chance.

The administration trusted me to know when a student was not suitable for my class, but I considered it a personal failure to put one out. Slowly, slowly Billy’s persona changed.

One Monday, Billy sauntered into the classroom sporting a grin that lit up his face. He laughed out loud as he exclaimed, “Mrs. Penton, I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t break you. I believe you are more stubborn than I am. Finally, I just gave in.”

Billy, like the rest of us, just needed a little love.


Jan Penton Miller can be reached at