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Who Is Your Project This Year? or I Know Karate.

Every year, I have a student who I claim as my “project.”

This is that one student who just doesn’t care about school. He doesn’t do his homework. He doesn’t care if we call his parents. His parents don’t follow through with their promises to encourage him at home. This is the student who the other teachers talk about at lunch when they’re complaining about the “rough” class.

This year, my project is Andy.

We all have an Andy. Sometimes, we have more than one.

Andy comes from a tough part of town. His family is in the gang scene. His father is allegedly a member of one of the big gangs in town.

He never turns in his homework.

He’s been in the office on several occasions. His name pops up in conversations about drugs on campus, although he’s never been caught using or possessing any kind of illegal substance.

We get no help from parents.

What’s a little odd is that he is never absent. Andy never misses a day at school. Most likely it’s because school is a happier place for him than his home.

I’ve chosen to do everything I can to make him find success. It may kill me, but Andy is not going to leave this year without knowing that at least one person in his life believes in him.

Yesterday, I had one of those moments where in my mind I shouted, “YES!”

We were making posters in my class to promote an event we are sponsoring at school. We’ve created posters before, but Andy had never finished one. He just gets off task, starts talking, and when the assignment is ready to be collected, Andy doesn’t turn one in.

Yesterday, however, he finished a poster.

It was not that great, and the letters had that “gang-related” style to them. I didn’t care. I gave him a high five, and told him that I knew he could do it. He smiled.

As I walked away, I heard him tell his friend, “That’s the first poster I’ve ever finished.” He was so proud of it.

I gave him some book tape to put on the poster, and told him to go hang it around the school somewhere. He went out, and about 5 minutes later, he returned.

Today, as I was walking down the halls, I saw his poster.

It was hanging right outside the doors to the front office.

I can just hear teachers complaining about the “gang-related” script on the poster hanging near the school’s front office. They’ll probably want to take it down.

They’re going to have to go through me to have it removed, and I know karate.

It wasn’t a big success for Andy, but it was a success, and I know it’s just the beginning.

Stay tuned for more updates on my progress with Andy. This is going to be HIS best year ever – and that will make it one of MY best years too.

Who is your project this year?

Does that student who everybody complains about know that at least one teacher believes in him/her?

It only takes one.



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  1. January 14, 2011    

    Yes, I have my own “Andy”each year and that’s what keeps me going. Those small breakthroughs I make with “Andy”each year can make all the difference in a his life. Sometimes I don’t see those differences for a while, not until Andy comes back and tells me how what I did helped him.

    I recall one student coming back to me a few years later and telling me that I had written something on his report card that made a huge difference to him and had encouraged him to go on to become an electrician. What were those profound words I had written on his report card? I’d written you can it if you wanted to”. It doesn’t take much to help a student make better life choices.

  2. Sam's Gravatar Sam
    January 14, 2011    

    Thanks for the comment Elona,

    You’re right. It doesn’t take much to change a student’s future.


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