I was unaware that middle school meant homework assignments for the parents too, but Ms. Bice said "In order to get a good picture of the students I am teaching this year [pretty sure there should be a comma there, but Ms. Bice didn't add one] I am asking each parent or guardian to write a short essay (1000 words or less) on their child.
So I did. And I thought I'd share it with you, dear Reader, because I liked how it turned out.
Patrick "Patch" Derks
He’s a good looking kid, you notice immediately as he walks in. Light brown (or is it dark blonde?) hair close cropped on his head like his dad’s. Depending on his mood that morning, there might be some product in it, to spike it up in a faux-hawk, or even a touch of red coloring across where his bangs would be, if his hair was long enough for bangs. Which it isn’t. His glasses are constantly lower than they ought to be and if his eyes didn’t smile so brightly, they might be hidden by his frames. His smiles are wonders, because they engage his whole face, and make him look as though he is about to burst into laughter. Which he probably is.
You might think he’s older than he is, because he’s tall for his age, and has a presence about him. A confidence. If the room was new, or the people unfamiliar, there might have been a moment of hesitation, of uncertainty, but you probably missed it, because it was only momentary. Now he is ready to begin and begin well.
You might think he is older than he is, because he is a conversationalist. He can ask about you, and tell you about himself. He hasn’t just talked with kids growing up, he’s talked with adults and isn’t intimidated by them. He knows he has interesting things to say, and he’s interested in what you might tell him. He’ll share with you his love of soccer (Manchester United in particular, and though Wayne Rooney is his first love, the quiet constancy of Robin Van Persie, the Dutchman, has won his heart away from the mercurial and sometimes brooding Merseysider). He loves to play too, and he’ll explain to you, though you might not understand, the joy of the full volley or the bicycle kick that he tried in practice. Or his love of video games, especially the open world builders, like Minecraft with its obsidian block and invisible stones, and Disney Infinity which he is still learning. Or his fascination with cooking shows, especially Good Eats because it’s about science too.
You might think he’s older than he is, because he’s more empathetic than many adults will ever learn to be. He’ll stop and help up a child or ask an adult how they are doing and care about the response. He’s unfailingly polite as well, with the possible exception of toward his parents, and is likely to give you a hug as well as a kind “good-bye” on the way out the door.
You might think he’s older than he is, but he really is eleven. And he’s pretty good at being an eleven year old boy. He’s kind of disorganized, and his backpack will become the same rat’s nest that every other eleven year old boy’s becomes by the middle of the first six weeks, no matter their intentions to start middle school new and differently with a new organizational ethic.
He’s eleven and he might burst into song, or tell a joke to distract the class. He might be giggling with the kid next to him about something funny that’s occurred to him about the Jamestown settlers, or trapezoids, or square roots. He’s eleven and he’s forgotten his books and his assignments and his lunch. He bought cool new body wash this year that smells good, but you sometimes still have to convince him to take a shower. He reads, but you might never see him do it. “I finished the Hunger Games,” he’ll say despite the fact you never saw it in his hands. “Oh, yeah? Tell me about it,” you might challenge. But you’d lose. He’ll not only tell you the entire plot and most of the characters, but also be able to explain how the book differs from the movie, and in the case of Hugo, how much better the book was.
He’s still just eleven and his confidence is hard won. His parents separated when he was only two and a half and while he doesn’t remember too much about it, staying in a cold overseas country with his dad and then leaving his dad behind for three months meant figuring things out pretty quick. His weeks are for his mom and his weekends for his dad and the hours in transition belong to I-95. Life has changed some over the last few years. He was a pillar of strength while his dad was assigned to the US Embassy in Baghdad and adjusted to his dad’s new apartment in Alexandria (further away than the old apartment in Fredericksburg) without missing a beat. His mom moved too last year and he was lucky to be able to finish out his school year at Mechanicsville Elementary, where he had begun in kindergarten all those years ago.
But this is middle school. A new house, a new step dad (same old dad, though), a new neighborhood, and a new school. Enough to shake the confidence of most kids and maybe even this one. But he’s willing to talk it out and knows enough about the people in his life to be certain that they have his back. His mom, his dad, his stepdad and stepsister, his grandmothers and grandfather, his aunt and uncles, his cousins too. They all have his back. So even if he doesn’t know any of the people in front of him, he’s going to go out there and see who is interesting to know. He seems older like that.