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Not a typical Thanksgiving

I'm questioning what to write today. Something happened. My mind has been in a crazy whirlwind all day. I feel like I have to write about it. I need to write about it. Here goes...

I've always been an early morning teacher. Generally one of the first people on campus. I feel like I work well in solitude. Arriving at work at 6:00am has been my routine for a long time now. It's been no different here in Hangzhou. I was a bit later than usual today as I called mom this morning. After hearing the same stories over and over again we said our goodbye. No, I haven't made it to the wall yet, but I'm excited to get there as soon as possible. I rolled in about 6:30am through the doors next to the swimming pool. There were swim team members getting in an early workout. I made my way up the stairs. As I crested the staircase onto the third floor I caught something unusual out of the corner of my eye. There was a boy standing on the OUTSIDE of the railing looking down at a very long drop. At first I thought he was goofing off. We made eye contact and I motioned for him to come back over the railing. I didn't say anything. He just stared at me. I walked towards him and it hit me. He was thinking about jumping. The strained emotion on his face was clear. This looked bad.

What exactly did I say/ask? "Are you okay? Can I help you out here? Are you having a rough morning?" I don't remember. I stopped about ten feet short of him and leaned on the railing. I looked down. It was a long way down. He said something to me in Chinese that I didn't understand. I grabbed my phone to use the translator. He told me he spoke English just fine. I asked if he knew who I was. He did. I asked his name. He said David. Me too. Odd coincidence. We shared a moment. He started speaking Chinese into his iWatch. Later I learned he was sending messages to his mother. We talked a bit. I sent an S.O.S. out on my phone to the right people. Within five minutes several other teachers arrived. David told me his mother hit him and had done some other things because he wasn't doing well enough in school. She took his phone and games. He wasn't allowed to play on the weekends. It's was all academics all the time for David and he had had enough.

Nichola Hollingsworth (PE teacher from Australia) knew David well and immediately intervened. She put her hand on David's shoulder and asked him to step back over the railing. He came right over. Crisis averted? For the moment at least. This young man is hurting inside bad. Parents in China are very different when it comes to academics when compared to those in the states, but this felt extreme. David is an eighth grade student.

I lost count of the number of teachers that checked in on me today. It was a good feeling knowing that the staff here is that caring. All the teachers that have been in China for a long time told me they've never experienced anything quite like this. This isn't typical. After a lot of "I'm fine" responses I'm sitting here in bed late at night wondering , am I fine? It's super late and I'm super tired. We're having a our big Thanksgiving feast tomorrow (Friday). I stayed up late and made two apple pies. I had to use the school cafeteria and adjoining kitchen area.

I was worried about making my own crust, but it went better than expected. It took me several hours and I had a lot of quiet time to ponder my day. David's teachers told me he was a star student. He gets some of the best grades in all of the eighth grade. Color me shocked. The admin made a big deal of our group response to the incident. That made me uncomfortable. There were several emails dropping praise on three of us that were first on the scene. Hero? Saved a life? I don't think so. I was just first on the scene. It's a weird dynamic. We all want to know we can do the right thing in a stressful situation, but I don't to talk about it anymore. Fursey (principal) told me he watched the CCTV video of me approaching David and said that I did an great job in the face of a bad situation. I don't know about that.

David and his mother spent considerable time with our school counselor today, Dr. Ryan. Dr. Ryan checked in with me today after my chess club CCA to give me an update on David. They're at home. All is well. David will be back next week. Somehow we made it through the day and we were able to keep the incident quiet. No other kids know about it, or at least we currently believe that. If he's here Monday I'll be sure to touch base with David and let him know he's a normal kid. My middle school years were rough too.

We don't have kids on campus tomorrow. It's an in service day for teachers to be followed by our Thanksgiving meal together. I'm dreading the idea that this incident is going to be talked about in a large group. It's dominated my thoughts all day and I'm ready to think about something else. I don't think there were moments where David was really serious about jumping, but it was still terrifying to some degree. That sounds wrong. He was serious enough to climb over a very tall railing. That's serious enough. The memories of my friend Phil's attempts came flooding back today. Really, im feeling sort of numb. I drifted through my day. I try to be empathetic with my students on a daily basis, but today was different. No matter what happened today I was the portrait of kindness. Today was a good reminder that we don't know what's going on in strangers lives. A kind random word or act might be the difference for someone that's on the edge.

It's early morning now after some sleep. I caught the end of the Bills-Lions game and first half of the Cowboys-Giants Thanksgiving day games. Looking forward to our feast this afternoon. Curious to give my apple pies a taste. I'm sure all of us from the states have some strong memories to share about past Thanksgiving days. Mine is a watching my Seahawks get throttled by Tony Dorsett's Cowboys in 1980. It was a 51-7 loss. Good times.

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Like Mike said, you did it right. Terrifying situation. Your empathy for his situation makes you special, it always has been what makes you such a great teacher, and friend.



You did all the right things, Dave. Your compassion is just one of those character traits you possess that makes me proud to have taught with you.

David Shick!
David Shick!

Thanks, Mike. That means a lot coming from you. I want to be the best teacher I ever was at the end of my career. You've been a role model for me. You had an impact on me that I'm grateful for.

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