One of my most promising 9th grade students made a C- in my class last semester, Ds in her other classes, including the 10th grade science class she was advanced into.
Today we had an intervention. Four teachers. One student. A little over an hour.
We shared her strengths as we saw them. We asked her what her obstacles to success were. She was candid and honest with us. I think she felt glad to have such attention paid to her. She described her history of being bullied (for whatever reason anyone is bullied) and ridiculed for being faster/more focused on her work. She explained what it was like for her to work in a group, both at school and at home, where people had already given up. She talked at length about all the reasons she can't work at home, her brother who takes her books and throws them across the room, her mother who is always asking her to help out, her grandparents who need her to run errands, the chaos of her family life. She explained why she couldn't work on the subway (she'd get so into the work she'd miss her train stop) and spoke almost dreamily about how "sweet" it would be to have just an hour a day to do her work without being distracted or distressed.
There was nothing in her reasons that seemed particularly surprising, but somehow I recognized the humanity in her. She was stuck in that thing we all get stuck in, where we accept that our lives are just difficult and we have to survive them, at best understand why they are crappy, but not change them. How many of us don't exercise more, eat better, fail at New Years resolutions, get stressed out on Sunday nights when we haven't done as much grading or planning as we mean to... Of course she does that. Of course she gets lost and overwhelmed. I don't know anyone who doesn't.
It was exciting to use concrete structural interventions to try to help empower her to make her life how she wants it: to realize that "sweet" feeling she has when she imagines having time to study.
Here I was thinking I was the one whose humanity gets overlooked. Amen for awakening.