A broken vase can often be repaired. The cracks or splintering may still show, but the pieces can be put puzzled back together. If a vase is shattered, however, then it is beyond repair. The old must be replaced with the new.

In a sense, this is how I have come to view my students. There are broken students—those who make mistakes and leave fragments of themselves behind. They accept the consequences, take responsibility for their actions, and begin the healing process. The cracks of failure still show, but they are slowly being mended.

Then, there are shattered students—those who refuse to change and continue in the same destructive behavior while expecting different results. These students ignore wake-up calls and place blame on the circumstances themselves rather than the actions that placed themselves in the circumstances. The sad and unfortunate thing about shattered students is that they have to be utterly and completely destroyed before they decide to change the way they are living. Their old life must be shredded before they allow a new life to be birthed.

And so the tenure of Ashton came to an abrupt end.

There are many things that I don’t know about Ashton’s situation, but one fact that I do know is that his behavior has been rapidly declining. Last week, he was written up three times for his behavior (a fourth would have meant a three-day suspension and an automatic petition to the court). Fearing that he would receive his fourth write-up, he lied to his mom and skipped school for two days to survive until the weekend. Upon return to school this week, he was written up twice more for his inability to abide by our policies and procedures.

As the week drew to a close, I received a call from one of his intervention teachers that he had been refusing to work, cursing his classmates, instigating a fight, and then lying to her about it all in one last desperate attempt to save himself. We had no other option than to report his behavior to our principals, which in turn meant that his probation officer was contacted. Considering that Ashton has court coming up in one week, the entire situation doesn’t bode too well for him.

When Ashton goes before the judge, he will have to answer for why he was suspended for the remainder of the school year, why he has over 40 unexcused absences on the year, why he has still not completed his community service hours, and why his mother has had to file unruly and disorderly conduct on him for his irrational behavior at home. Considering that this has all broken his probation (as well as directly defied the judge’s orders from their last court appearance), Ashton will most likely be locked up in a juvenile detention center for a period of time, be given additional community service hours to complete, and appointed to a six-week correctional military boot camp this summer hosted by the detention center. And depending on the testimonies presented in court by Ashton’s mother, his counselor, and his probation officer, there is a fairly good chance Ashton might be removed from his home and turned over to state’s custody.

Sitting in the principal’s office, Ashton hung his head and cried. He wouldn’t speak, but I imagine that he cried for everything he could explain and everything he couldn’t explain; for the actions he consciously knew he had committed as well as the thoughts he subconsciously didn’t know existed; for the mental and emotional downward spiral that he couldn’t break free from; for the cards that he had been dealt and the mess he had created; for choosing the shadows rather than the light.

In that moment, I think Ashton knew that the vase hadn’t been broken—it had been shattered. And my only prayer is that he seeks healing and allows a new life to emerge from the old.

I’m not sure if I will ever see Ashton again, but God will. And with God, hope is never lost.


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