19 June 2008

Why Are You Here?

A couple of days ago, I wrote about a kid who had made some poor choices last month and had been told by other teachers he would fail. Guess what? He passed my class. Here is the e-mail mom sent me yesterday:

I wanted to thank you for giving him a chance to redeem himself. You are the only one of his teachers who was willing to do so. I know he has it in him to do well in school; we just need to find a way to keep him motivated.

Again, thank you for everything and have a super summer.

This e-mail is bittersweet. On one hand, I'm happy that the young man got himself turned around and was able to pass my class. And on the other hand, I'm disappointed in his other teachers. What sort of people give up on kids? Why are those people in schools?

I wish I could reply to this e-mail the way I'd like. I'd tell this mother to pull her kid from this school and send him elsewhere in the district. I'd tell her that because her child is not an AP kid, he will never be seen as anything other than scum by his other teachers and he will continue to be ignored. I'd let her know that the administration of the school will never support the kinds of motivational practices her son needs. I might even warn her about the number of families I know who had children who attended this school and later had to deal with suicide attempts or continual bouts of tears every time high school was mentioned. This school will damage her son if she isn't careful.

Instead, I will keep this little jewel of an e-mail to myself and not send a reply. I'm sure that she's not expecting one. And in the future, I will remember this lesson about grades and wish that this young man holds on to some hope, too.


andrea said...

I HATE schools like that. I have been in them (as well as wonderful schools). My son has been in them, with several learning-problem diagnoses as well as a long scholastic history of increasing difficulties. After getting so dispirited from academic struggles (despite being rather intelligent) and having re-occurring health issues, he too lost his motivation, and his last report card was at the bottom of the grade scale. They were only too glad to blitz through the formalities of giving him his "release" papers to formally quit high school and take the GED. Now he's at the community college, and much happier. In a couple months, I shall send his teachers and counsellor a letter letting them know his progress (he got an A in his first college class).

Doubtless some of them will complain, "why couldn't he do that here?" But think on this: it's the same student -- the school is what's different. Hmn...


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Don't send an email, SG. Call her. They can't trace the call. :D

Keep on keeping on. SBG will prevail, eventually. ;)


The Science Goddess said...

Sometimes, it all makes me want to shake people until they rattle. Argh!

Anonymous said...

Hi, SG. Loved this post, loved it.

The last paragraph was inspiring and touching. But the part where you say "what sort of people give up on kids?" was the money quote.

Here's what I'm wondering about: what would happen if teachers who do take the opportunity to reach out to kids who are struggling went to teachers who are letting kids fail and started a conversation about our obligation, as teachers, to persist with kids who mess up?

Yeah, it's really the school leaders' responsibility to ensure that all kids get multiple chances to succeed--but that doesn't seem to be happening. Would a teacher to teacher approach make a dent?

Or not?

You do rock, SG.


The Science Goddess said...

Aw, thank you!

As for teacher to teacher approaches, like most things in the educational world, all I can say is "It might." It's 5-to-1 against me---it is much more likely that they think I am the one who needs an intervention about how to handle grades. LOL

When I talk with teachers at this school, many recognize the things that they should be doing with grading, yet they all admit that they don't have the strength to do it. "I can't grade like you do." The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming.

This is not a reason for me to give up on those kinds of conversations or keep pushing forward in my own classroom, just a reminder that I will have to be persistent, diligent, passionate, and persuasive in this quest. Not too much to ask, eh?

andrea said...

Yeah, the cognitive dissonance is always overwhelming.

Apparently so is personal change; it's easier to come up with reasons why the changes cannot happen, than to figure out how to make them.


loonyhiker said...

I'm glad the parent let you know of her appreciation. Even though you can't do more, at least know that you have made a difference that might influence this student when making other decisions. It gives the family hope and that is important. I applaud you for not giving up!