Sometimes they know just what to say to warm your heart.
It's never to late for a student to decide to go to school.
A former student reached out to me last night asking if it was too late to try to improve their grades and class rank.
It's November of their senior year. Yes. Yes it's too late, but the question is for what? Is it too late to try to leapfrog over your classmates that have been working their tails off for 4 years and have already submitted their early action applications? Yes. Is it too late to have your grades in a position that allows you to relax for your senior spring and embrace the senioritis? Yep. Is it too late to be in a position to give that valedictorian speech at graduation? Sure is, but is it too late to accomplish something that you can be proud of? No.
What I told this student was that they needed to work hard through the end of the year. There's also no manual that says you have to or should go right into a 4 year university straight out of high school or you will be a failure. I encouraged this student to work hard and if her goal is UT then there's no shame in take a year or two at the community college of her choice and transferring. Education is a long game in so many ways.
Why shouldn't she feel bad about herself? Both her and many of the kids in the top 8% got around a 16 on their ACT. Sure, they get to automatically go to the state schools of their choice, but guess what? Pretty much nobody is college ready so she has plenty of time to work hard, acquire the skills she needs to compete, and do something that makes her proud of herself.
The last thing I told she was that she is more than a number. I've seen her grow over the past few years and I'm extremely proud of what she's accomplished. Does she have room to grow? Sure, but it's never to late to accomplish anything. Nothing is impossible, things just get harder.
Usually when I get a text from a student that is only a million exclamation points, I start to panic. Luckily, it was followed by excitement and thanks. The people I asked to reach out to her sent her a note and encouraged her to push past her fears about college and continue applying.
It was important for her to hear from people that she thought had an important perspective on her future.
I'm thankful to my friends. I'm proud of my student. I'm excited for the future.
DISD students afraid of college
Coming off a sick day and finally finished grading papers, so I'm a bit off balance.
While I was recovering I got a text from a student I had my first year teaching. She said that she didn't want to go to college anymore because she was "scared" and "tired of all these kids that are trying to go to the same place." There's a few things right away that I explained to her that hopefully helped her realize that those reasons, while valid, are not worth avoiding college.
First, fear is natural. When you are the first person in your family to go to college, there aren't as many people that are close to you who can tell you that everything be OK from a place of knowledge. There aren't as many people that can give you a realistic picture because they haven't experienced it so college seems like the great unknown. This isn't me trying to hop inside the mind of someone who is a first generation college student, these are the thoughts that she expressed as a result of our conversation. That process in itself, the process of helping her talk out her feelings, is something she appreciated.
Second, deciding to go or avoid college for other people is, generally speaking, a bad idea. I explained that the college she has been looking forward to attending is much bigger than high school. I told her she didn't have to see and hang out with anyone she didn't want to and that her future and learning were much more important that a few people from high school. The opportunities are worth the risk of running into someone she's not a fan of.
The last thing I offered to do was connect her with college graduates that can answer her questions and concerns about college to make it scary. Not just black females like herself, but graduates of all backgrounds so that she could get multiple perspectives on what her future may look like. She demanded that I follow through with that offer, and I have. Let's see if that makes a difference.
President Obama had a great call to action in his State of the Union address by advocating for free community college for EVERYONE! The idea of a low to no cost college education is HUGE. I'm not even talking about our national or international competitiveness. The opportunities this presents for our students is AMAZING and maybe college can really become something ALL of our kids start believing is attainable. Something I think is missing. If this is going to work we have to be honest about how our current no cost educational institutions work. We need to look at the shining lights on the hill and the hovels in the valleys of education to really make this bold vision work. If we don't take care, our community colleges will end up just like our public high schools. Click "read more" in the bottom right corner to see what I mean.
We are graduating more high school students than we were last year and the year before that. Everyone Celebrate! Pop Bottles! After we are all done patting ourselves on the back for pushing out another class of seniors that may or may not be prepared to do anything, let's reflect on how they got that Diploma.
Have you ever passed a kid because you didn't feel like doing the paperwork? Has a coach or administrator ever come to you and asked you to bump up a kid so they could play? Have you ever given a student that tries really hard that passing grade even though they did their best but got a 50? If you answered YES to these questions or any of the others running through your head, then ask yourself this, "Are more kids graduating or are we just giving more diplomas?"
The value of a high school diploma 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, meant much more than it does today. Kids graduating from today's inner city schools aren't ready for college, they aren't ready for the workforce, and, quite frankly, some aren't even ready to write their own names. We have kids walking across the stage, smiling and waving, that can't even SPELL graduation. Does everyone deserve to be happy and to feel proud of themselves? Absolutely, but that cap and that gown are a privileged. You have to earn that...or you did.
We've "upped the rigor" in our classes while lowering the grading standards and our integrity as teachers. The result is a diploma that isn't even worth the paper it's printed on. We need more teachers willing to hold kids to a high standard and administrations willing to support those teachers vs. districts that set arbitrary maximum failure rates. Let's make our students BE proud instead of just FEELING proud. Greatness is still possible in the inner city, but not if we don't force greatness upon it.
Letting things continue the way they are could very well make college the new high school, graduate school the new college, and so on.