Back to the Future. Squirrels. Coffee. These have nothing to do with each. It is just how my brain works sometimes. So, I was planning on going to the present to talk about some mistakes, some failings I have had. Every.Single. Day. But I want to still be careful. (See how hard it is to talk about failure in our own lives?)
Instead, I want to talk about some students. Now, I have been in education for 16 years now so I have met a lot of students. There have been a lot of “why would you do thats” and many “Just Stop”s, but for the most part, kids are always making some weird choices. And with two girls at home, I get reminded often.
Anyway, the kids I am going to talk about are a conglomeration of different kids, partly to protect some anonymity and partly because the kids sometimes just blend together in my mind. It is convenient that way. These are not necessarily failures, just moments that stick out- plus from the outside, they may appear like something is amiss.
One student was super low. She missed much of her Kinder year, and about half of first grade. So, going into 2nd grade, her scores were low. She could not really read. Certainly not on grade level. She was a 2 on the DRA. By the end of the year, she was a 3. Growth but nothing major. She was a bundle of energy, could not sit still, and was always touching/hitting/bumping into others.
On paper, she was not looking good. Certainly, her test scores were awful and she did not look like a success. She did not make the teacher or the school look good. She was pointed at and discussed- Why did she not grow. What teaching strategy can be done to raise those test scores? (Don’t get me started.)
Well, the test scores don’t really matter. This girl was no longer homeless and begging for money with her father. Her dad had found some employment, but it was still an ongoing struggle. She was eating at least breakfast and lunch every day. She went from a 2 to a 3.
Failure? She made the test scores go down. But is that the only thing? Is it the main thing? There were many failings in this young life. There were few discernable successes. At least academically. But she went from a 2 to a 3.
But there was a spark. Of hope. The teachers felt like failures because she went from a 2 to a 3. When a 40% was a good score for her. When you could not read the jumble of letters that she thought she was writing. After extra time, support, and energy poured into this girl.
A failure. Because her test scores brought down the class average. Because she could barely read.
If it were the end of the story. But she is still writing her story with her life. A snapshot of our lives may look like failure and it may be, but as long as we are still breathing, we keep trying. Sometimes we can’t give 100%. Sometimes we have to take care of ourselves because “whatever it takes” is taking a toll.
But we press on, sometimes barely surviving. Sometimes crying on the way home or on the way to school. Sometimes feeling sick having to come back to the battle. Sometimes hopeful that today will be a little different.
As Angela Watson says, “It is not going to be easy. It is going to be worth it.”