A long time ago I taught kindergarten in an urban area, at a school with a very high poverty rate. One year I had a little boy — we’ll call him Button, because he was as cute as one — whose family was in disarray, and who had gotten inadequate parenting in his first years of life.
His academic skills were extremely low, and he could barely talk. He had difficulty forming lots of sounds, but he also had a very small vocabulary and not much experience speaking in sentences. Button was very sweet, and caused few problems in class, but I worried because he was so far behind and his communication skills were so poor. His father, who had recently taken custody from his mother, was a nice man who was doing the best he could, but who admitted he didn’t have much experience raising a child. His mother I only met at the end of the year, at kindergarten graduation. She said to me, “My Button is so smart; he is such a smart boy,” and I couldn’t think of anything to say (“well, actually, he is really far behind where he needs to be, going into first grade”?!), so I just smiled at her. I wished that I could have done more for him.
On Saturday Button was walking down the street when somebody shot him.
Button is dead. He was sixteen years old. I was his kindergarten teacher.