Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mediocre Students Need Help Too

There's this sense that teachers are good at school and have always been good at school, so that's why they choose to make school their career. It wasn't so for me. I wasn't a bad student by any means. I cared about my grade. I did not act up in class.  I turned in all major assignments in on time and complete. Homework was sometimes hit or miss, but I still usually got it done.

The problem was, I wasn't great. I never went the extra mile until I was a senior in college. I relied on a two major pieces of luck. First, not to brag, but some things did kind of come naturally. However, that ended up being a downfall for me because I got to about the seventh or eighth grade before I actually had to work to get a concept, and even then I didn't have to work very hard. As a student who entered an International Baccalaureate program in high school, expecting to get concepts and skills without work was not a good idea. I struggled because of pure laziness on my part.

The other bit of luck I had was a twin sister who is probably the best student I have ever seen in my entire life. My sister was able to hold her own among people for whom things came naturally into their senior year of high school. She worked her butt off and she had some of the best study skills ever. Her notes were impeccable. Her time management was a marvel to behold. Her patience was unending. Her ability to turn out well thought out and executed projects and assignments was awesome. In short, she was That Kid. It's really hard to do poorly in school when That Kid is your study buddy for everything.

When I went to college, I could no longer use my sister as a crutch. I went to the University of Louisville, while she went to the University of Kentucky (and later Vanderbilt for grad school... told you she was a hard worker!). Freshman year wasn't so bad. Gen Ed classes were ridiculously easy after finishing my International Baccalaureate studies. It was about my sophomore year when I started faltering. I had to work my butt off, twin sister style to keep my KEES money and not tick off my parents. I had to learn a bunch of skills regarding time management and studying that I literally never learned. By junior year, I had improved slightly. By senior year, I was That Kid all by myself. By grad school? By grad school I was That Kid that turned in her MAT portfolio a week early and passed it.

I understand the struggles of being a mediocre student. Mediocre students are also a struggle in my school. Why? Because no one sees them. They might fail one, maybe two classes at the most in high school and average about a C since they don't have That Kid for a twin sister to rely on. They don't fail enough to warrant intervention. The trouble is that these are exactly the kids that need to be picked up just enough so that they can get their KEES money, scholarships and entrance into college. Most of the mediocre students I went to school with still attended college because they had rich parents to rely on for tuition. My students don't have that luxury. The bulk of my school is made up of students like this. By pulling them up from mediocre into great, or maybe just good, we can change their futures for the better. The trouble is that when you have to serve 100 students in a day, the squeaky wheels are who get the grease.

Unfortunately, kids that were mediocre students for me as freshmen sometimes give up and become failing students in later years and still drop out.

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