As I moved into another classroom this week, I walked in on a young man with his head down on a desk. He had fallen asleep in the previous class, and the teacher was looking at the kid with a look of bemusement.
The kid roused himself and started to explain. He hasn't been getting any/much sleep at night because he has so much work to do for his classes. And, he's stressed out about finals. To top it off, he was now worried about the test he would have the next day in the class he'd fallen asleep in. He asked the teacher if he could come in for tutoring.
The teacher never said "No," but what was worse was that he never said "Yes." Instead, he told the kid just to get some sleep (good advice, for sure) and just do his work for the class. I think the teacher meant well, but the bottom line is that he wasn't hearing what the kid was trying to say. The kid wanted to actually learn the material, not just fill out the worksheets---even though that was enough to satisfy the teacher. The student tried asking a couple of different ways to no avail. I did tell the student that if wanted help to find me after school. I meant it, too. I was angry with the teacher, but just smiled and counted to ten. "If you can't be bothered to help a student," I wanted to say, "then just send him/her to me."
(As an aside to this story, the kid also made a comment about how the teacher who sent this e-mail makes him feel like crap all the time. Gee kid, I thought it was just his co-workers he treated that way.)
I didn't see the student after school that day. I did see him again the morning of the test. He was still working on answering questions when I arrived in the room for my class. His teacher left him with me to finish his work, so I sat him off to the side and did some cheerleading for him to get things completed. What I learned in talking to the kid to prompt his thinking is that he's pretty bright. He had a good handle on concepts and vocabulary---but after yet another night without sleep and stressing about things, answering questions on paper was not going well. I told him to relax...to move onto the remaining items he knew and to go back to the others later. He actually did okay once I got him calmed down. We'll see what his teacher thinks about the test.
As for the kid? He's coming in after school on Monday to get some tutoring before finals. I think I can help him acquire some tools for studying and test-taking that will help him make the most of his smarts. I can't claim to be superteacher---I don't have success with all of my students, much as I might like or how hard I try. But this kid is one I can make a difference with, even if he isn't one of my own students. In the grand scheme of things, I always hope that for those in my own classes that I am unable to reach, that there is another teacher there who does have a strong connection. Obviously, it won't be the teacher next door.
Update: The kid saw me on Monday morning and gave me a big hug. He was very happy with his test score. I'm happy for him, too.