A group of my awesomest juniors sat in my room after school today, waiting for my big announcement. I took a deep breath, and I told them.
I told them that I do a little writing on the Internet, but that I'm anonymous, so don't try to google me.
I told them that I recently wrote about one of my students having his laptop stolen. That I had posted something about hoping to replace the computer.
I told them that there had been an amazing outpouring of support, that in just a couple of days, people--many of them complete strangers--had donated close to a thousand dollars.
I told them that someone I did not know, a lawyer from New York, had emailed saying she would donate a laptop to the cause. I told them that in subsequent emails, I learned that she represented cool rock bands, that her parents had gone to this very school, that, in fact, she was in town for her father's funeral when she offered to donate the laptop. I told them that the laptop wasn't here yet, but the UPS tracking information says it'll be here on Wednesday.
I then told them that there was money to now consider, that I thought half of it should go towards a scholarship fund for D and the other half should go to somehow make their school and/or community a better place. I told them that I had plenty of ideas how the money could be spent, but that I much preferred to have them figure it out, with D in charge.
Then, I handed D a printout of some of the messages written by people who donated money and told him to read them out loud.
He read them all. Slowly. Sounding like he might choke up once or twice. And when he finished, the entire class erupted in applause. The students--D's friends and peers--were genuinely happy for him. They offered their congratulations. One girl turned to me and said, "You've restored my faith in people."
I looked around the room. "So, what do you think?" I asked. "Can you all come up with a positive way to use this money? Possibly a way to make it grow and help even more?"
Yes. Yes. Yes! They wanted to try.
"Unless," I said, looking at D, "unless this guy would rather have all the money for his college fund."
"No," he quickly replied. "I want to do something good with it."
The class cheered again.
Later, he wanted a list of all the people who donated, so he could thank them individually.
"Sorry," I said. "Some of these people want to remain anonymous. And please don't make me separate out who wants to be anonymous and who doesn't. Maybe you can write something, and I'll post it here. But take your time. Collect your thoughts."
Eventually, after everyone left, he stuck around. We talked about how devastated he had really felt when the laptop had been stolen, how upset his family had been, how his mother had wanted to sue the school for not having better security.
"But this whole thing today has really made me think about people and the world," he said.
Eventually, there was a slight awkwardness.
"I just really want to ..." he started.
"Wait, stop," I said. "If you want to say something, do it publicly. But here's the thing: Don't feel like you have to change because of this. I don't want you to all of a sudden not call me jerkface."
"Fine," he said, trying to sound sarcastic, but failing. There was definitely a softness in his voice.
"And another thing," I said, trying to sound mean, but failing. "You better do your homework tonight!"
It was a great afternoon, one of the better ones in my teaching career. And I would like to thank every one of my readers once again for making it happen.