Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Little Compassion Can Go a Long Way

#ReflectiveTeacher blogging challenge Day 9: "Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care)."

This one took me a little while to think about.  I don't know about you, but for me, the years run together after a while and many students morph together into composites of students.  Sad but true.  Confession: For a teacher I have a horrible memory!  I am one of the teachers using the seating chart until late in the fall just trying to learn all my student's names.  Now as an AP, I don't have the benefit of a seating chart!  I'm sunk!

But this isn't a reflection on my weakness that no one knows about, this is a reflection on something that I want to celebrate about my career.  So here is what I came up with...

Several years ago we had a student, I will call her Jane, who was not on the right path.  She was a student that many of us rallied around to  get on the right path because we were truly fearful that she would not survive high school.  I know that those of you in public schools (sadly!) have these kids every year.  At a private, all girl's high school this is the exception rather than the norm.  Anyhow, Jane did so poorly in history (my field) that she was not going to graduate.  I wasn't willing to let that happen so I allowed her to do an independent study with me in order to recover credits.  Our time together was sporadic at best.  I spent more time chasing her down than actually helping her learn much of anything at all.  However, at the end of the day I still gave her a passing grade even though most people would say she came no-where near "demonstrating mastery of the content".  Jane graduated and then fell off the grid.

Last year she re-surfaced and surprised the heck out of me.  I truly thought that she had succumbed to gang violence.  She has her life together and is pursuing her dreams.  I was never so pleased to be proven wrong about a student and felt so very validated in passing her.

So why is this on my "proudest moments" list?  Teachers the world over do this sort of thing all the time.  But for me, this was completely out of character.  But I am pleased that my younger self was willing to look beyond the immediate.  Jane needed her high school diploma.  For her to have any hope at a life of success she needed to get past that hurdle.  Had she not graduated, I am not convinced that she would have pursued her GED at any point and without that, her college dreams would have been done.

Now I can not take all the credit for this success story as there were many of us carrying Jane.  But I do know that an "F" would have meant no diploma.   I am generally a rule follower and I could easily have said "no".  Instead, I erred on the side of compassion.  I know I made the right choice.  And that is why I consider this one of my biggest accomplishments as a teacher.

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