After I was no longer their teacher, I became friends with many of my students on facebook. Sometimes I’m dismayed by the things they post (and hope they have privacy settings or something), though I’m pretty quiet unless there’s a status or a photo that I particularly like. I wish them happy birthday, send them information about summer enrichment programs or college occasionally, and go on with my own online life.
Today, I discovered via facebook that one of my best – and favorite (let’s be real, any teacher who says she doesn’t have favorites is lying) – students from last year is pregnant. My immediate reaction was something along the lines of “Are you effing kidding me?” She’s not the first student I’ve had who’s had a baby, but she’s probably the most unexpected one.
I had these assumptions, patently unfair, though honest, ones, about what kind of unwed teenage girl gets pregnant. Smart girls don’t. Quiet girls don’t. Girls whose parents are involved in their lives (who have driven to meet me for tutoring on a weekend!) don’t. But she’s all those things, so I was floored. Stunned. Shocked.
I was reminded by a good friend that we knew teenage moms when we were in high school, too. But while a baby doesn’t automatically mean the end of the world for a high-schooler, empirical evidence suggests that it’s lot harder to have one as a teenager in Memphis than in a Pennsylvania suburb.
I reminded myself later of a girl I taught my first year, S., who was just as smart, whose mother was just as dedicated, (who was definitely loud, though, and whose mouth got her in trouble with teachers) and who had a baby that spring. S.’s daughter marked the 4th generation of women in their house. (Where are the men? I wondered.) S. returned to school the next year, continued to get good grades as far as I know, but also continued to have discipline issues. B.’s never had those, to my knowledge, and she has the same things going in her favor as S. does, what with a good head on her shoulders and a dedicated family. So I guess I’m not really worried for her… except that I am.
And do I reach out now, even though I am no longer in B.’s life beyond facebook? What would I write? “I’m happy for you”? Babies are blessings, true, but I don’t want to be disingenuous: I’m not happy. I know my feelings are of no consequence. I know I’m judgmental. I know I’m not a psychic. What I don’t know are the right words to say to a girl I care about whose life is changing faster than I can comprehend.