Julia sat at her desk staring out her living room picture window but not really seeing anything. She was worried about a couple of her high school math students who seemed to be drifting without focus.
Suddenly, movement in the yard caught her eye and she focused on a group of black-capped chickadees. Some were frolicking in the bird bath. Others were picking up twigs and flying off to a nearby spruce. Julia figured they were building a nest, and she watched carefully as they flew back and forth, carefully selecting twigs that met their exacting standards.
Then she noticed a pair who just seemed to be wandering aimlessly. Unlike the bathers, they weren’t playing or enjoying the water (although how the bathers could enjoy the birdbath when the outside temperature was barely forty degrees, Julia couldn’t imagine.) They also weren’t building nests for spring babies. They seemed to be moving with no purpose at all, not even hunting for food.
Julia couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in their heads. Then she realized that these three groups were rather like her high school students. The first group was out to have fun, and she certainly had students like that. They partied every weekend, pulled harmless pranks at school, and generally seemed to enjoy themselves. They weren’t at the top of the class, but they were managing to do enough work to pass their courses. Julia had always assumed that there were parents in the background who would only allow the social activities if some work was accomplished.
And then there were those who were really serious about their school work, just as the nest builders were. These students studied hard, turning in all homework and doing their best in every classes. Some were at the top academically, but others just managed to pass, but each was focused and determined.
But then there were the two students who seemed to be merely drifting. Julia worried about them as they weren’t having fun but they also weren’t studying. Some days they were in school but other days not. They were always polite and one of them especially always said he’d done his work but forgot it or the computer was broken or whatever excuse he thought might be acceptable. Julia was afraid that both of them were smoking pot, spending their days in a hazy blur.
Julia’s attention was drawn back to the birds. The two whom she had thought were wandering aimlessly had suddenly started grabbing sticks before heading out to another conifer. Now they too were involved in building a nest. As Julia continued to watch out her window, she was amused by all the chickadee antics, but she was especially interested in the two new nest builders. Maybe the students she was worrying over were just waiting and one day they too would gain focus and purpose. After all, even though she had always been one of hard working group, it had taken her several tries to find her own path. With that thought, Julia turned back to the papers she was marking.