My gang of three boys meets me every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30-4:15. We work on homework, catch up on missing classwork, study for tests and read and write together. Early on in the year, I called each of their parents to request that they stay with me after school, so I could help them be more successful as eighth graders and help them establish healthy academic habits before high school. Their parents agreed, so beginning in October, they have been coming to my classroom for extra support.
The support I offer to my after school group is similar to the types of supports I use to provide to my own children when they were in middle school. I teach them study skills. I show them how to prioritize assignments. I require them to meet with teachers to clarify directions and expectations. I monitor and model organizational systems. I quiz them. I ask them to set short term goals. I match them to books. I confer with them about their written organization and elaboration…
For most of their middle school years, my three boys have earned at best C’s and at worst D/E’s. Now that they are in eighth grade, complacency has set in and neither teachers, parents nor the boys expect much more.
The thing is, supporting them after school is easy work. I am not a martyr nor a saint; however, I do believe we teachers have the ability to change students’ academic trajectories. My hope is to instill in them (besides a love of reading and writing) a new vision of their potential along with the learned understanding that they control their academic destinies.
What I respect most about my after school trio is that they do the hard work of showing up. They show up twice a week for 1 hour and 45 minutes. They show up despite the data that shows they aren’t achievers; they show up despite their parents and sometimes their teachers referring to them as lazy; they show up despite the student study reports that suggest they have undiagnosed processing problems; they show up despite never being named to the honor roll nor receiving academic accolades. The boys who stay with me are smart, funny, and caring. They are remarkable human beings who deserve more.
Showing up is what creates change. And we’ve got another ten weeks to establish a new academic narrative.