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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Oh These Students!

My summer high school students are affecting me in ways my regular-semester, college students have not. I cannot get them out of my head. It’s late – I have to teach in the morning, but I am up thinking about them.

Today was mid-session assessment – progress reports. During the two hours our class meets, I met with each student and reviewed their work and grades, provided correction, direction, sympathy and butt-kicking.

These are the students who stick with me the most this evening:

Newton– a sweetheart of a kid who is at risk for failing my class – whose family life is a shambles right now. His mom is in the hospital and he has missed far too many school days to sit with his mom in the hospital; his step dad and he are so at odds that Newton has left home and is living with three relatives on a rotating basis. He plans on completing the summer session and then joining the job corp – a program I am unaware of, but which apparently provides housing, work, and some schooling for underage kids who are adrift.

Daniel – a panic-stricken, unfocused young man who has a court date on Friday which will determine his fate – continued probation or incarceration at the local juvenile detention facility. Daniel claims he has been so freaked out about this court date, he hasn’t been able to concentrate and do any work. I suspect that is not entirely the case – I suspect that he has so neglected his education in the past, he has barely acquired any skills and cannot even do my simple assignments and the court date provides him with a convenient excuse. The kid is definitely worried, but I think some of his worry comes from knowing that he really hasn’t quite done all he was suppose to do to present himself well at court. I’m worried that that he is so trapped now in failure he will do anything to stay in that failure – because it’s what he knows – it’s what he’s used to. I fear he may be unreachable. Nonetheless, we’ve set him up with tutoring on Fridays – hoping some one-on-one assistance will help him turn this around.

Tangier – a steady, calm, reliable student with a keen intelligence. He is missing his family terribly. His folks divorced a few years ago and somehow, he is the only one of 6 kids who is with his mother while the rest live across the bay with their dad and stepmom. During his parents’ divorce, Tangier lost focus and drifted in high school, but now he is refocused and on track, making plans after high school to attend a community college and enroll in the honors transfer program – students who successfully complete that program are guaranteed admission into the University of California system. But Tangier is still hurting over the loss of his family – he doesn’t see his father as he once did, nor his siblings. He misses them terribly. Tangier sought me out this afternoon, ostensibly to go over a paper, but really to talk about his future and his family. I mostly listened, offering a bit of advice here, asking a question or two there. Tangier just needed to talk.

Katrina – a shy, quiet young woman whose journal entries speak of her insecurities and fear of failing. She is convinced she cannot handle the coursework, yet she has turned every assignment in on time and currently has a B in the course. She does not seek me out, nor in any way call attention to herself, but I make a point of finding her, everyday in the Learning Center to make some comment on the work she’s turned in, or ask how her other courses are going. Katrina always has that deer-caught-in-the-headlight look about her. I want so badly to help her change that look – she is not caught at all, not trapped, not about to be run over – she is strong and successful but can’t see it yet. Though I wonder what in her life has helped create that startled, fearful look, part of me is afraid to know.

Elsabeth – a bright, vivacious student – she writes earnestly in her journal about my course, giving me valuable feedback (some of it quite critical – but always respectful). She is intent, works hard, but her writing is nonetheless appalling. English is not her first language and that’s part of the difficulty. I have not been able to help her as much as I would like – she needs more than I or the program can really provide. But I don’t really worry about her – because she is tenacious and already knows how to advocate for herself. She has worked with Katrina on some poetry – they both submitted the same piece in their journal entries. I have asked to copy it and share it with the class. Both girls’ eyes widened – Elsa’s with excitement and pride; Katrina’s with fear and trepidation. But both girls agreed to let me share their collaborative poem with the class.

Now, I have posted this blog and hope I can put these students out of my mind and go to sleep. I will, after all , see them tomorrow.

Note: To protect students' privacy, I use psuedonyms and have changed some of the details around - hence, these descritpions, though not completely accurate to the facts, are nonetheless true.


Blogger Enemy of the Republic said...

I'm a teacher, and I often went through the same thing. I've gotten better, but it's hard to not let these young folk get to you.

July 11, 2006 6:43 AM  
Blogger Jack K. said...

bird, you are an angel to your students. Everyone of them will carry great memories of you.

It sounds as though Newton will get it all worked out. With you as an intellectual refuge for him, he should make it.

For Daniel, if he can only look for those daily victories he achieves he just might gain more confidence. Things as small as tying his shoes when he does, showing up to class, etc. He sounds like a candidate for some serious meditation.

Tangier is another one who will make it in spite of his family situation. He will continue to seek out folks like you who will help him to validate himself. So keep listening.

Katrina is the one I worry about. I, too, am afraid to ask what else is happening in her life. I suspect she is being abused in some fashion by the very folks who are supposed to protect her. I am not sure what to say about this. I suppose that California has some rather strict laws about reporting suspected child abuse. You might want to look into that.

Elisabeth is well on her way to becoming a successful adult. The fact that she will challenge authority in a respectful way and is almost giddy to receive such notice about her poetry, suggests that she has a pretty good sense of self. Continued encouragement is the order of the day. But, then I don't need to tell you that. You do it so well as evidenced by your postings.

You can always sleep well when you conduct yourself with such caring honor.

Thanks for being there for them and for us.

Posting such as these are prime for the Serve Well! blog. There is no better evidence of serving others, caring about them and sharing the love in your heart. Keep it up, it is inspirational to us all.

July 11, 2006 8:46 AM  
Blogger The Flabbergasted Heathen said...

It's nice to know that students do have an effect on the teachers thet guide them.

I remember being in school and knowing, far too often, that the teacher was only there to collect a pay cheque.

That's insulting to both teachers and students.

Keep up the good work Bird...

July 11, 2006 9:56 AM  
Blogger velvet acid tongue said...

you are truly a gift to us all. i'm not sure what more to say. your insight into and passion for you vocation is amazing to behold.

thanx for sharing yourself with us all.


July 11, 2006 6:39 PM  
Blogger Mrs. B said...

I am happy to hear that it is not just the "rookie" in me that is very attached to these students. I also have a few that really stick with me.

Keep caring, you're making a huge difference.

July 13, 2006 12:02 PM  
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