What is that I see? Could it be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel? It is amazing how your vision changes as you find yourself near the end of a journey. As I stood watching my lowest math classes take their finals Friday, I was struck by how much I would miss some of those students. This happens with every class you teach, but what is really odd is that some of the students you find you will miss are the ones that drove you the most crazy. I thought about each one as they worked, said my own prayer for each that they would pass this state ordered and written and graded exam…and wished them well on their journey this summer. These students in particular are the ones who are not most likely to go to college. Why do we forget that education is for everyone, and therefore it is for some students who will find it challenging. I have a mix of students who will not succeed academically because of environment. I know several of them are drug/crack/fetal alcohol babies, and are currently users of substances, whose support system is absent, and who are pretty much on their own. I have students who have brains wired differently, and although bright, find traditional learning very hard. And I have students whose parents no longer have control of them, cannot make them work/learn/study any more than I can, and thier students just don’t see the value of education right now because it is not instantly gratifying.
All in all, a very motley crew in that class. A friend who proctored the test with me was rather shocked, as her own kids are very studious, and attend a much wealthier school. She was surprised by the apathy of some…taking the 2 hour exam in less than an hour and then doodling marijuana plants all over their scratch paper, which I did have to collect and turn in. The confusion of some, who even though they were told/instructed/reminded many times over the past week and in the preprinted directions I had to read aloud, exactly as written, to fill in every blank, and to guess at any not filled in at the 2 minute mark, still left columns empty. And there were even those who had gone over and over and over with me the material, had worked so hard on homework, had come to tutoring and in at lunch… and will still fail, because this is just too abstract a concept.
Algebra I…these kids took the course over a 2 year stretch, some of them over 4 years because they kept failing part of it. They need it to get on with their lives, and it is to them, a giant hurdle.
I know I made no difference to some. Some were unreachable because our personalies did not click, because I did not have the spark or gift or right tag line to snag them…I just hope I made a difference somewhere, that some of them do pass, that I don’t find out Monday afternoon that way too many failed. I know it won’t be all my fault..but I still will feel responsible. Yes, that student never did a single homework assignment, but could I have found a way to present the material so he did not need the homework? And that student, yes, some concepts were over his head, but could I have found a better way to present it.
Someone once told me that a good teacher always feels they could have done better…so I hang on to that thought. I did the best I could this year, and next year, I will strive to do even better. Some things are out of my control, and some I need to find a way to make part of my control. I need to balance this with my own family and their needs, my own health and well being…every year, refining and retuning.
Sitting with a knot in my stomach, waiting for the other shoe to fall and find out which students move on, and which get a retake, and which have to face algebra another time. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I think the summer on the other side will feel good.