Editor’s note: Nate Reaven is one of four rookie teachers contributing to the “North to South Education” blog. Reaven is a graduate of CU-Boulder, and a former Education News Colorado intern.
Leading up to our first day of school, we were instructed to call the parents of our students. We will be calling these parents every week, but these were the first phone calls of the summer.
These were reminder phone calls to both the inexperienced parents with students coming for the first time to the program, and the grizzled veterans – the parents of students with multiple years under their belt.
Because I’m teaching the rising ninth-graders, the oldest students, nearly all of the parents I talked to were occupants of the second category – grizzled veteran.
We were instructed to remind these academically-minded parents about what time to arrive, where to pick up their bus, what they needed to bring – logistics. These phone calls were going fine – until I met Julie, the grandmother of one of my students, Elizabeth.
Julie was fantastic. She was clearly aware and interested in her granddaughter’s experience over the summer. But more than that, Julie was interested in her future. Her daughter is smart, she is just not very good at English – she’s a slow reader, she told me.
Elizabeth was just accepted into the International Baccalaureate program, she tells me, and is quite excited about the math program there. She wants to know what strategies I have to help her learn how to read faster and with more understanding, and I tell her that I’ll try to do my best.
After reading Garrett’s post about calling to sell students on learning – on enriching their lives, I realized how much of a pleasure it was to find a grandmother in, let’s be clear, a difficult situation. The students in this program are only allowed in if they meet certain criteria. Specifically, low socio-economic status, usually a person of color, and someone who has been underserved by their public school options. The students, however, are usually motivated, excited, and ready to learn.
Garrett is forced to convince his students to learn. I am forced to teach Romeo and Juliet to kids who want to learn about Shakespeare, but to the same demographic of students. Garrett walked into an empty classroom, while my fellow teachers and I ran up to every student as they arrived and cheered as they exited the bus. We were creating a culture of excitement around learning.
I do not know what to do about this. I suppose keep doing what I am doing, right? Teaching. Learning. Teaching.
I do know one thing though. I am glad for that conversation I had with Julie, the spectacular grandmother. She gave me hope.
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