The last couple of weeks have been crazy and rather stressful, but right now I'm just going to focus on and share with you some of the positive things that have been going on:
Two weeks ago, I attended the National Honor Society induction ceremony per an invitation from one of my absolute favorite students from last year. He came up to me about a month ago, and said, "So I was trying to think of who I'd like to invite, and the first name that popped into my head was 'Debbie G.'" (They love coming up with nicknames for me. I'm desperately trying to discourage it....) The ceremony was very nice--the kids were all spiffed up and trying not to giggle and trip, the parents looked so proud, and we teachers felt honored to be included. There are days in this profession where we feel underappreciated and worry that what we are doing is making no difference at all, so this type of thing is like a nice little affirmation that there are students whose lives we've impacted and who we have meant something to. This student was so excited to have me there, and I was beaming ear to ear. As a thank you for including me in this special occasion, I gave him a B&N gift card and a letter that was a combo of corny and slightly obnoxious (since that's how he and I talk to one another). I also had the opportunity to congratulate my other former students who were there, a number of whom gave me hugs. I'm really proud of how hard they have worked to get to this point, and I hope it's just one in a long list of great things they'll achieve in their lives.
The next topic I'd like to share is about one of my seniors. This is a kid who, for most of the year, has done almost no work and just screwed around during class. His grade for Term 1 was an very low F. I mean, you'd need scuba gear to dive down far enough to see how low it was. And he didn't turn in a paper that was assigned during Term 1, but the grade for which went on Term 2, meaning he started off this term in the hole too. But the last couple of weeks, there's been a big change. He's started doing his homework, and on the last couple has actually been writing more than most of the other students. He also turned in a short writing assignment and earned a 9 out of 10. In addition, his participation has been getting better. Yesterday, the class actually had a really great discussion about Night (they are very into this book right now). We had just read the part about Wiesel's dilemma about whether or not he and the other prisoners should fast for Yom Kippur while in the concentration camp. This student argued that he should, saying that he has already lost everything else that is important to him in his life, and that G-d is all he has left, so he shouldn't just give up on his faith. That's a pretty profound idea from a CP2 student, and quite unexpected from this particular one. He ended up being a leader in this discussion, and I was so happy to see that.
I pulled him out of class at one point for a short talk. Now, to preface this, I should say that I have some tough policies, because I firmly believe in the importance of students learning about responsibility. I don't accept big assignments after three days (and they lose 10 points for each day they are late), and I don't do extra credit, because I dislike giving students the idea that it's okay to goof off for the whole semester because they'll just get to make up for it later. And I'm certainly not one of those teachers to say, "Well, he's a senior, let's just pass him so he can graduate." So back to my student: This senior's progress report is going to say that he has an F. If I were to stick to my usual policies, it is quite likely that he would not pass and graduate this year. However, I am feeling very encouraged by his recent 180, and during our conversation he seemed very sincere about changing his ways (and this is a kid who I have almost never seen be serious or sincere about anything). I told him that I am going to make an exception for him and give him an extra credit assignment, but that in order for him to earn this opportunity, he must keep up with the rest of his work too. He agreed to this, appreciative of the second chance he is being given.
Even though I broke my rule, I feel good about this decision. It is only December, and if there was already no way for this kid to pass, I know that he would just shut down for the rest of the year, and I doubt he'd take the course over again in order to graduate. I want him to learn, and it seems that he has realized his mistakes and learned from them. He also seems to be someone with low self-esteem, as he has previously expressed that he's not good at anything and doesn't really have anything going for him. I hope that by being given this second chance, he'll understand that he has someone who believes in him, and maybe he'll start to believe in himself. So if ever there were a time to make an exception to a rule, I suppose that this is it. I hope it will prove to be the right decision.