I have changed a student's life. I know, that sounds grandiose and perhaps a little exaggerated, but really, this time it is true. As a teacher, I get my share of students who don't want to be there. They may not want to be in college, in english class, in MY english class, or just there, but whatever the geography of their disenchantment, they make it clear through a thousand signs that they do not want to be there.
Jose* was one of those. He sat in the back of the room, against the wall, as far away from me as he possibly could. He stared at the floor, out the window, at his books; he looked anywhere but at me. In the very brief moments that I could force his attention, I liked him. He seemed smart and funny, but totally disengaged, even a little bit afraid of me. He turned in little or no work and when he did turn in something it was late and wrong. Finally, after several weeks of trying to engage him, I scheduled a mandatory appointment.
He looked panicked when I told him I wanted to meet with him. He tried to get out of it and promised he would work harder and made all the promises and excuses that students make when they want to get out of something. I remained firm. Sometimes, they just don't show up and then you have to keep badgering them, thankfully, Jose did show up.
I was prepared to ask him the questions that I always ask students. How are you? How are you doing in your other classes? What is your major your career? Why are you in school? Where do you want to transfer?... etc etc. But, he didn't let me get that far. He said "Can I tell you something?" I assured him he could, and then he said the thing that I think all students feel in this situation, but that so few of them say. He said "I'm really scared right now." And just like that we began to talk. He didn't want to go to college, he wanted to move to Hollywood and work in the entertainment industry. He had secretly applied for jobs at TMZ and Entertainment Weekly. His family and friends made fun of his desire to be in show business and told him to forget about it and that he had to go to school. Yes, when he said he wanted to be the "next Ryan Seacrest" it was very tempting to laugh, and I am sure that he has been laughed at before, and often, for his dreams.
But I didn't laugh. Instead I talked to him about how to use school to get to Hollywood. I talked about needing to write well, and having the credentials to put on his application, I encouraged him to take drama classes, write for the school paper, and to apply for internships in local media.
Right then, in a matter of minutes, I watched him transform. From scared and unsure to boisterous and excited. Now, he is a top student in my class. He has begun talking to local radio stations about summer internships, he has started his own entertainment blog. He turns in work early and asks for feedback, and quite frankly, I can't get him to shut up in class. It is amazing. Will he be the next Ryan Seacrest? Who knows. But, I am pretty sure that he will transfer to a four year school, and that he will get a degree that prepares him to work in the entertainment industry at some level. And that is a long long way from the kid who was secretly trying to move to LA and who wouldn't look me in the eye.
*name changed for privacy
While the Sun Shines
2 years ago