Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Chase for College

Sometimes, as an educator you wonder if you ever make a difference. You wonder if everything you said fell on deaf ears, especially if it wasn't going to be on a test. You wonder if they'll learn the real lessons you wanted them to learn instead of just the facts of the text or the rules of grammar. I have taught different years of high school, from 9th to 12th, and I have never been as attached to a class of students as I am to this year's seniors. I honestly do not know how I will be in the halls of West without these kids around next year.

Many of the students I'm talking about were in my first or second honors class in my short teaching career. Somehow, I was blessed. I had this group as sophomores, then we all got moved to eleventh grade together. And along the way, I picked up a few more new juniors. But now those students are seniors, and they are moving on.

I am incredibly proud to say that some of them are ready. This week, I was asked to write a recommendation letter for a student I had for two years. He had listed 4 different colleges, with his top choices being ECU and ASU, schools I am definitely familiar with because I have attended and graduated from each. For me, this is the ultimate in flattery, when your students choose you to advocate on their behalf for a quality education after high school.

When I started to write this student's letter (let's call him J), I had to think back to the first time he walked into my classroom. I thought about how much he had grown from an immature, arrogant sophomore to a mature, well spoken, humble senior. He has achieved as a student and an athlete, but most of all as a person. J stands to me as a practical example of why what I do everyday in the classroom really makes a difference.

J isn't the only student who has asked me to write a letter for him, either. I am lined up to write at least two or maybe three letters to UNC-Chapel Hill, and two of our three Morehead-Cain nominees who are endorsed by our school's scholarship committee are my former students. These students have not necessarily pushed themselves because of me, but I make sure that every student hears my story about being from this area and being afraid I wouldn't be able to afford college and how my academic achievement got me into UNC and helped me pay for it, too. These students have hung around after school to ask questions about big name schools and did I think they could get in. And I have always answered with "yes, if you push yourself, you can do anything."

I think they are going to continue to make us proud.

This is not to say, however, that I have arrived as an educator. It just means that every now and then I get a pick-me-up from former students. At the Homecoming football game last night, I ran into other former students who all wanted a hug and a smile, and to tell me all about college. In those moments, I can't be more proud of what I do for a living and where I get to work. It isn't easy all the time and the politics of school never go away, but when I write these letters and hug these kids, I know that at the end of the day I am fulfilling my calling, and definitely living the dream.

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