Saving Them All
Like many of my fellow educators, I find it particularly disturbing when incidents like the Virginia Tech shooting occur on school grounds. The details of this shooting and the outspokenness of instructors and students in the English department forced me to reflect on the role of today’s teachers.
Ten years ago, I was a teaching intern at a racially and economically diverse high school. Much of my day was spent working with students one-on-one that for some reason or another were considered at-risk. I remember vividly trying to get some rapport with this one freshman boy during academic coaching sessions. He was apathetic, unresponsive, and generally, pretty spaced out most of the time. The veteran teachers in this program would listen to my frustration and, sometimes, offer words of encouragement. By Christmas, none of us had really reached this kid; he drifted in and out of school everyday saying little and producing little in the way of schoolwork. Still, I was just an intern, not even yet at the beginning of my teaching career; optimistic and steadfastly hopeful, I continued to plug away at this kid.
One afternoon, a member of the teaching team said to me, “You know, you just can’t save them all. Sometimes, you just have to give up.” I hated this teacher at that moment; hated his cynicism and his jaded ideas. By June, I finished my internship. I never did reach the student; the teacher was right.
The student continued to float through high school- disengaged, disinterested, unhappy. None of his teachers, despite their best efforts, made a difference in his life.
Ten years later, I am no longer the intern I used to be. A part of me still wants to believe that we can save them all. Even though I still try, I know we can’t. To the beginning educator, I might be cynical; I might be jaded.
Or maybe I am just honest with myself. I’ll keep trying to save them all anyway.