My teenager came home with her yearbook, and I asked to look through it. Why? I wanted to see how my former students were doing.
I taught for one year at her high school. The year before she arrived there, in fact. It turns out for the best that I left, since I am much happier and more effective slinging data. Plus if I had stayed, I would have had the dubious pleasure of teaching her that year.
Anyway, I browsed through. I had a few students among the graduating class this year. But most of my students are finishing up their junior years. It was good to see that most of them were looking more mature and grown up. I saw signs of it when I saw them each day.
My daughter hung over my shoulder and gave me the information she knew. One of my girls who was on the verge of falling in with a pretty bad crowd pulled herself together, she said.
I was interested, though, in those students who I had taught who were no longer with the grade they started with. Six of my students had failed at least one grade.
I was surprised at only one of them – a young man who has a lot of potential and absolutely no drive. I taught him and his older sister in the same semester. She worked hard and mastered the material with difficulty. He did not work, but still managed to scrape passing grades in my class.
The others, not surprisingly, had failed my Algebra 1 Part 1 class, some more than once. I was not surprised that they had failed other classes. And in some ways I was glad that it wasn’t just my class that they had failed.
Perhaps it wasn’t my teaching after all, but the students themselves.
That was an attitude I my principal told me that I had to correct – that every student could and would pass my class. I didn’t doubt that with hard work any of them could. I just needed them to meet me halfway.
Math is a skill that needs to be practiced, and these people didn’t do a lick of work, even in class (and since I saw them every day, we did all our work in class).
So a bit of sadness, and a little bit of vindication. And some very proud moments to see the students who had worked so hard and succeeded.
Photo by Jordan Doneskey