Sunday, October 28, 2007

When a Student Drops Out

I lost a student the other day. I walked into class and was told that Jose Luis won’t be coming back to the center. He apparently just up and left. I’m told it’s a common occurrence at the center. But I got so into my routine I guess I just kinda forgot it might happen. The problem with my routine however, is that the more I got into it, the more I cared about the well being of each of my students. You develop a relationship that I really think sustains you through the monotony of doing simple math and reading exercises over and over again. If you don’t love these kids, you can’t do that shit again and again, because to be perfectly honest, I hate teaching and yet, I love my job. Why? Because I love my students. And so losing my first one, has really been a personal blow, and I am still reeling.

Those of you who have been keeping in touch with me have no doubt been subject to my relentless conversations about Jose Luis, my 17 year old student who bravely began attending school for the first time ever this year. When I first got him, he couldn’t write his own name, count past 10, or even recite the first 5 letters of the alphabet.

But over time, we began to see progress. The last class I had with him, we were doing simple addition and subtraction, counting to 100, and reading small and basic sentences. Everyday was at once frustrating and enlivening. For so long, I struggled with him, but near the end, it was like something clicked. You work with a kid long enough and you learn how he learns. I learned about Jose Luis, and began teaching to how he learns. And as we began to see progress, there was this sense of excitement about what was going on. A life was changing, he was learning and it was having a tremendous impact on every aspect of his life. And I was in the front row, blessed to witness it all!

I go to bed tonight and I wonder where this kid is. You can’t over dramatize what it is we do, because in the end, we are nothing but a tiny peg in the system. But with this kid, my role was bigger. I really had an opportunity to do something substantial. To teach a kid to count his bus fare, to read. Really, it was beginning to see a future for a kid that once had none.

One of our last days of class, timid Jose came in and started giving me lip. I was so taken aback that it took me a while to realize what he was fussing about. He was holding up a book his cousin lent him, demanding me to account for why he couldn’t read it. Teach me more, teach me faster. Professor, please, push me more, he told me. And just like that, the motivation my student had found deep within himself lit a spark of my own. Quiet Jose, demanding to learn more. I had planned this week to try and squeeze in more hours one on one, so we could move him along more rapidly. I had all these grand visions of what we’d do. For Christ sake, I had a kid begging to learn, begging for homework, begging for more class time!

And none of that will happen. I lost a student and I’m losing sleep on it. He’ll never learn again, I know he won’t. I hate to be so cynical, but every core of my body knows this to be true. There is no fairy tail ending, no life lesson learned. At this moment there is me, in this room, looking at the lesson plans I had created just for him that are now wasted. Jose Luis is gone, and with him went an opportunity to get educated, an opportunity to break out of poverty. Why? Life isn’t fair, but damn it, sometimes it should be.

1 comment:

NatNat's world... said...

Patrick, I´m crying for you. That blog was beautiful and I´m sorry for your loss of a student, but from what it sounds like, you made a huge impact on his life!