I guess that's what this blog is for...
Last night I taught "my girls" -- all of whom are 7th grade scholars, aged 12 and 13. Some weeks they are less than gracious and other weeks they are downright resistant -- to learning, to talking (to me only), to being positive, etc. This means that I'm frequently frustrated and often discouraged. On those nights I tell myself that, while I wasn't angry or disrespectful when I was their age, I was definitely as boy crazy and eager to be accepted. So, I cut 'em some slack.
But there are weeks when I feel as though I really break through their nonsense. Last week, only one of my girls was there, so I spent some quality one-on-one time with her. It just so happened that the activity I had planned involved writing a letter to yourself in 10 years. "What don't you want that version of you to forget?" I asked her. "What do you hope to have accomplished? And what dreams do you still want to have on your horizon?"
These are not easy questions. I forced myself to answer them, and it's a difficult task. Particularly if you just started junior high and projecting 10 years out includes high school (something you can't wait for) and college (something you can't fathom) and requires forgetting for a second about the boy you can't wait to talk to tomorrow. Then it's nearly impossible.
But this young girl told her 10-years-older self, who she envisioned had just finished college, not to forget where she came from and not to decide not to go to medical school. This stunned me. I was so proud of her ambition but so fearful that medical school may be out of her reach. Not because I believe she can't accomplish it -- I believe she can -- but because I know the statistics. I know that only 9 out of 100 kids in this area graduate from college. (The statistics are far, far more optimistic for kids in this particular program.) That means she has a less than 10% chance of making it only part of the way to medical school. The chances that she will make it even further are slim to none, unless she starts working toward that goal right this very minute.
Which brought me to my next point of discussion with her: goals that she will have to accomplish to graduate from medical school. The answer: graduate from college. "Just 'graduate from college'?" I asked her. "No, graduate with good grades," she answered. "Okay," I continued. "What will you have to accomplish to get good grades in college?" The point was to get her to see that life is a journey and that all of our goals are inter-related. There are multiple 'minor' goals that she will have to accomplish along the way to get her to the place where graduation from medical school is a feasible next step. And she would be wise to set herself on this path now, given the impediments she is likely to encounter. Of course, I don't want to steal her childhood away from her, but I do want her to have striving for academic excellence in the back of her mind.
Believe it or not, I think what I said to her sunk in!
Yesterday we were focusing on our next Poetry lesson -- not long-term goals and projections, but it still went exceedingly well. We were studying the use of metaphor directly and discussing biculturalism and tolerance tangentially, as we had read "Legal Alien" by Pat Mora. And, again, I sensed that what I was saying sunk in. And when I challenged them to think critically, they really dug in. I was very, very proud of them.
As part of our journaling last night, I brought in my December Daily pages. I told them about the project and my reason for undertaking it. I passed around the pages so that each scholar could read them. And then I asked them to contribute. I asked them to tell me what Christmas means to them personally -- what it signifies, what they look forward to, what (if anything) they dread, etc. And the three who were present took it seriously. I was really impressed with their answers, which are December Daily Day 7 (and reason #257 to take stock and give thanks).
And which I will share with you tomorrow... (Have to keep you coming back for more! :)