There is a student in my seventh period who is That Student, but he wasn’t always. (Well, he was always a handful, but at least he was mostly kind about it.) But when he came back from Christmas break, he didn’t talk for days. He never smiled; he shut down. This lasted for weeks. And when he finally started talking, there was an edge to him that hadn’t been there previously.

I was convinced something had happened, the contrast was so noticeable. He wasn’t interested in talking to me about it though, so I let it lie, and as with most things that lay around without care — the memory gathered dust. As the friendlier version of this child went further from my thoughts, so did my patience.

I hate silencing students. Or anyone. But his disinterest, his disengagement, and his vocal need to make sure everyone knows about it was and is disruptive to many of his peers and their learning. I like him well enough, but on those days he doesn’t like me much at all.

I found out today his parents split over break — he was blindsided. And as painful as I know that experience was as a twenty-something, when I was not blindsided, I cannot fathom going through that as a teenager. When the bottom-drops out, how do you go forward when you don’t even know who you are yet? Or how well you can stand on your own?

There was the click. I get it now. He makes sense.

And there was that inkling that something had happened, but I wish I had known. I don’t even know that I would change anything other than the tone in which I talked to him on his most frustratingly disruptive days — but in many ways, a change of tone is significant powerful enough.