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Friday, November 10, 2006
Endings and Beginnings

Our community has two major sources of employment: factories and farms. The children of the people who work there attend the school where I teach.

Today was the final day of the first trimester of school. About five years ago, our school switched from semesters to trimesters. Instead of two 18-week sessions, we run three 12-week sessions. There are some postives to it, but I'm not a fan. I think we've lost a lot by going to the trimester, but I digress.

The classes I teach are all one term classes. This means that I said good-bye to all my first-tri students and hello to all my second-tri students today. Today was a half-day for the students. They came in for one last final and then we rotated through their new schedule for five minute classes. That's just to make sure they know where they're going and are ready to start on Monday. It also gives us a heads-up on any scheduling issues for the counselors to straighten out.

After the kids left, I was finally able to finish grading my finals and start entering final grades. Don't give up, I'm getting to my point!

I had a student this last trimester that is just sticking in my mind. She's a pretty girl, but doesn't think she is. Her hair is long and unstyled. Her clothes are unflattering. She's not the smartest student in class. In fact, it would be safe to say that learning is very difficult for her. She struggles, and I admire her so much.

She came into class everyday with a smile, and she tried her hardest. It might take her five attempts to type a letter correctly, but she re-did it everytime until she had it right. She was determined to get it. Time ran out and she wasn't able to complete every assignment, but she did enough to pass the class. I have students who can get the grade with minimal effort. I have students who should get As, but can't be bothered. I love the students who struggle and persevere to earn their Cs and Ds.

She's on my mind because I recently learned that she was the student in a story Jim told me last year. She was his student then. At parent conferences, he met with her grandmother to discuss her difficulties with pre-algebra. Her grandmother's response was to question why her granddaughter needed to know it. She wouldn't need it for the factory.

Now there's nothing wrong with working in the factory. It's good honest work, but how sad that your highest hope for a charming determined 14-year-old is that she someday works in the factory.

I think I know why she has such low self-esteem. I hope she's thrilled when she sees she passed my class the first time.

On another note: I mentioned this blog the other day. This family's story is just mind-boggling. They need all the support anyone can offer. If you haven't gone yet, please go read their story. It is the most moving blog I've ever read.


Blogger Pamela said...

What a great story Magi! It is hard to imagine why a parent or a grandparent would not want their child to achieve and for that matter surpass their own education! I wanted more for my kids and I hope they will expect as much as their kids can achieve and then some too. Wow! Nice that she has someone in her corner like you. I still to this day have fond memories of some of my more outstanding teachers! Teachers that did more than leave an impression on my life! :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, my co-worker told me a VERY similar story when we lived in Arkansas. Her husband was a h.s. teacher and his student told him he was biding his time until he was 16 so he could drop out and join the chicken line. He would buy (I think) a trailer to put on some family property and he would be all set!

Very sad. Personally, my parents emphasized education so heavily that these type of stories are almost incomprehensible. I didn't want you to feel it was only there. I'm glad you can be a light in her day.


Blogger Kate said...

My husband taught high school until last year (when he left to go back for his doctorate so he can teach college because, silly man, somehow he thinks there will be less administrative crap to deal with at the college level) and he always said that he would rather teach a hard-earned C than a lazy-B student. And in that town, there weren't even factories and industry, it was just a series of people working at Walmart so they could spend their money at the grocery store, and vice versa.

Blogger Barb said...

This moved me so much, Magi. Your admiration of this girl is very obvious. It makes me sad that one of her biggest challenges is dealing with the "why does she need to know this stuff" mindset she's surrounded with. I hope she's one of those rare children who are able to rise above that and succeed in spite of low expectations all around her. I do know for sure teachers like you greatly influence kids like this.

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