I am tired. It’s March. Students are bored and teachers can’t yet see how we’re going to reach the final goal. I’m behind on my grading, and my planning, and my meeting preparation. I’m behind on my sleep.
I’m trying to remember how it was when I started this year. How enthusiastic I was, and full of energy. I’m also thinking of how hard I’ve been working. I am thinking of one student in my first period English class. We began on a very bad footing, because this child had a rough start in high school. He caused problems in every class he had, he was refusing to work, and spent a lot of time in the office. When he first came to my class he would not look at me. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this student could not read AT ALL. His misbehavior in school was his way of getting out of class, so he wouldn’t have to perform (especially in front of his peers). He was hiding his illiteracy behind a façade of anger and hate. He was one I targeted for help. He needed it.
He still needs help. Although he works in my class, and greets me by name when he comes in, and even stays after school sometimes for extra help, he is still often in trouble with other teachers. He is performing poorly in their classes. He might not make it to tenth grade. That’s really scary, because he’s already 16. If we don’t convince him it’s worth staying in school he could leave before he’s mastered the basic skills needed for the basic jobs. I have had some success with this one child because I’ve developed a relationship with him. I know that he had to give up a puppy he loved. I know his mother’s first name and cell phone number. We smile at each other, sometimes. I trust him, he trusts me, and we celebrate our success together when he masters something in English class.
I heard a talk by Reginald Farrare, a middle school principal in my county. He offered a good insight into what teaching should be. He said, “If the student is only with you for one year, make it the best year of their life.” That’s my goal, for each of my students. It’s driving all my efforts with this student, the one who can’t read, but who’s smart enough to know how hard life is if you can’t read. He’s developed strategies to avoid his problem. I’ve got to teach him strategies for dealing with his problem. In this one year. Which is almost over.
I may be tired, but I am still enthusiastic. I’m not done yet. Happy Spring!
The opinions expressed in Ready or Not are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.