Why I Teach ALL My Students

Sorry for the long absence.  Life has been really, really good for the past couple of months, which always seems to mean I write less.  While I wish I could write as much when I am happy as when I am having a hard time, I’m really ok with the happiness part of things.

I do, however, want to share one of the experiences I have had teaching this year.  LS has been featured as a Student of the Week both this year and last year.  Over the past couple of months he has become one of my favorite students, and perhaps even one of my favorite people.

Last year, LS failed my class.  He wasn’t even close to passing – he failed miserably.  He did not participate, he did not ask questions, he did not even attempt to complete his work.  On top of that, he was in one of my worst behaved classes with a whole bunch of his friends.  Not exactly a recipe for success.  In my struggle to figure out who I was as a teacher and how on earth I was supposed to do this job, LS slipped through the cracks.  I did not push him, I did not stay on him, I merely let him fail because I did not have the energy/ability/knowledge necessary to help him.

When he showed up on my roster again this year, I was excited to get a second chance.  I knew I had improved as a teacher and I was determined that he would not slip through the cracks again.  Because I changed the way my class was run, I have a lot more opportunities to check in with individual students, and LS is always a priority.  Because I have built a relationship and trust with him, he is more willing to take chances and mess up.  Because I refuse to let him do nothing, he is reading and writing and thinking.  He still won’t volunteer to speak in front of the whole class, but I have seen him answer questions and participate in small groups.

Last Wednesday I handed out ZAP forms to my students.  These forms let them know they are in danger of failing the 9 weeks and give them the opportunity to come in on Saturday to make up work.  For the first time ever, LS did not receive a ZAP form from me.  He couldn’t believe it.  I had to promise him that he really did have a C and was in no danger of failing my class.  The look on his face was totally worth all the extra effort and attention.

LS is why I do my absolute best not to judge students based on prior performance.  Should he have done the work last year?  Yes.  Would he have been successful in my class last year if he had put in the effort?  Possibly.  Could I have helped him more, pushed him more?  Without a doubt.

Last year I thought he was lazy; in reality, he was just incredibly lost.  Because I am a better teacher, he is a better student.  Because of him, I will continue to strive to teach ALL of my students, not only the ones who seem to care or are outwardly appreciative of my efforts.  Because so many of them do care, they are just too proud/stubborn/afraid to show it.

It is my responsibility to make it safe for them to care.  It is my responsibility to believe in them and give them every opportunity to succeed.  I can’t control the choices they make, but I can control that.

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4 Comments

  1. Dad

     /  December 12, 2010

    Kudos to both you and LS. It just goes to show how much can be accomplished when working as a team.

    This is very well written and inspirational. You should submit it to TFA for publication in one of their newsletters.

    Reply
  2. I second that Mr. A

    Rachel, this gave me goosebumps! You are defnitely and inspiration as a teacher and a friend. Love you!!

    Reply
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  • A collection of ramblings and musings on Jesus, life, education, family, and anything else that pops into my head.

    Twitter: @rachel_heather
    Email: raltsman@gmail.com
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