Saturday, July 30, 2005

My students send email

So my former students email me. It gets strange. I get invitations to myspace, links to the "hottie test," endless chain letters that require me to forward the letter on to "twice the number of people I thought about in question #2 or have bad luck forever!!!!!!" There's also this:

"hahah I went to Big 5 the other daycan I FINALLY FOUND THE HACkiE SACk!! xD for the firsttime after how many times i've been there. =D yup.yeah that's all. peace peace."

Which, as a teacher of writing, grammar, and ELD, hurts my feelings.

Then there's the serious stuff:

"I really want to change my high school and I will take my chances with my college opportunities. Please halp me. I really don't feel comfortable in THIS "B-" school. If you were to be so kind to help me, I do promise you that you will be amazed of my effort in that school. Even if you think that I'm not talented in any way, please take what I say into consideration. I want to really do something with my life and work hard to be the first person in my family to go to college. Like I said before, you might have your mind made up that I am not as talented or smart as A., R., S. Or P., but I will try. Please help me because I am willing to try so hard that I am planning to change the way that people think about me. I will succeed with or without your help but it will be harder without it. Have faith in me and help me! PLEASE?"

Every year, I recruit our hardest working, most dedicated, highest achieving 8th graders to attend the International Baccalaureate Program. E., the author of this email, wasn't among those I targeted, and now, five months later, I don't know why. Reading this felt like a kick to the groin, especially the part about not thinking he's as talented as the other kids. And I think about how my actions are received and interpreted, the affect they can have on students' perceptions of themselves, what those actions have messaged to E., here, and I feel once again intimidated by the unintentional reach of my choices. Never mind this kid has a $10,000 scholarship to attend the premier Jesuit College Preparatory School in Northern California, he's worried that I don't believe in his abilities.

As it turns out, we can probably make the change to the IB school, because one of my former students' parents are not letting her attend. I find out about this and send a mock-serious email about mobilizing a massive force to re-convince her parents, and I get this response:

"I am extremely thankful with you for taking your time into getting me in IB. Unfortunately my parents decided that I should attend O-. I am not so happy with their decision but I respect it. I am sorry for wasting your time and I hope to stay in contact with you. Hope to see you soon! Sincerely yours, R."

This from a 14-year-old, and it stops me dead in my tracks, mostly that part about respecting the decision. This sucks though. R. is as talented and dedicated a student as I've ever seen, and the thought of her languishing at that totally mediocre, over-crowded, under-achieving makes my skin crawl. We'll be talking about how to make the most of the situation in the coming weeks, but damn, what a loss. The fact that it comes from her parents' suspicions of gang activity at the IB school (which are completely unfounded -- I tried to liken it to our own school's continued increasingly invalid reputation for the same) makes it all the more unfortunate. I lack the eloquence and vocabulary in Spanish to do the kind of convincing it would take and I hate like hell that I can't master that language and do away with that barrier between myself and the community.


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