By Coach Andres Gomez, Klein Cain High School
I have been around long enough to know that this time of year, most teachers and students are brimming with a cocktail of emotions that include excitement, fear, optimism, and anxiety. I say “most”, because some of us don’t fit in that category.
I am one of your students, and I don’t feel excitement or optimism. You don’t really know me yet, but based on my past, I know what my school year is going to look like. I can already tell you that sometime around October this year, I will give up. I will stop caring about your class, and school will no longer be important.
Of course, that is also the time of the year when you poor teachers will be bogged down with benchmark tests, morning duty, paperwork, class sizes, grading periods, and countless other challenges. You will be exhausted from dedicating so much attention to so many different issues in and around school. Because of this perfect storm of circumstances, I will not stand out. You won’t notice that I have stopped trying. I will actually try to blend in and not get noticed, and for the most part succeed, because I won’t act out. I’ll just quietly fall behind in every one of my classes.
You have encountered students like me in the past. I will have tough things come up. I will have family issues surface that are beyond my control. I will face distractions that will make me focus my energy and effort outside of school. By February, I will be a thorn in your side. I will have missed many days, gotten distracted with new friends, and made numerous bad choices. I will have had many mornings when my parents didn’t even try getting me out of bed because they were busy trying to get their own life together. All these problems will make school seem insignificant. That’s because my body will be in a desk, but my mind will be elsewhere. It will be mostly on the possibility of more things going wrong.
Then when I finally realize that school is a source of stability and I should get myself together and try to return to my studies, I will feel hopeless and far behind. I won’t know where to start to catch up. Therefore, this stretch of motivation will only last a couple of weeks, and if at that point I feel as though you see me as insignificant, I will be done for sure.
You will know that I am done. You will see it in my attitude, my body language, and my lack of work turned in. All of my energy will be focused on other things, and your energy will be maxed out by the attention you need to give the other 25 or 30 students in your class. Believe me, I get that. I wouldn’t make me a top priority either. What I don’t get is why sometimes you will go out of your way to make comments like, “You’re lazy”, “I’m not going to waste this assignment or my time with you since you don’t care”, or “You’re not able to handle this.”
Let me be clear, I am not blaming you. You can’t possibly know every detail of what is happening to students like me. I know the whole story, but I don’t understand it either. All I know is that I can do better. I can stay away from the drugs, even though they can be a quick fix for the anxiety and pressure. I can give more effort, making less problems for you. I can seek the help of others and look for small ways to improve.
Ultimately, though, my education can be considered a two-way street. If I could do it by myself, I wouldn’t need you. But I do need you. I need communication from you. I need a change in the negative routine of my life. I need respect as an individual. I don’t need you giving assignments to other students, skipping over me so as not to waste your resources or time. I don’t need you to just let me sit in the corner and hold up my end of the tacit agreement that if I don’t disrupt the class, you won’t disrupt me. I don’t need you to simply let me fail so that you can run a seemingly effective classroom. I do need you to put some pressure on me. I will probably meet you with some resistance, but it’s what I need.
And despite what it may look like, I can handle it. I am not a waste of time. I do care. I’m not stupid or lazy. I need help. I need guidance. I have never dealt with the amount of stress I am currently dealing with. Life used to be cartoons and juice boxes, then in the blink of an eye I have 3 tests, 4 projects, one angry boyfriend, a crying mom, and “friends” making awful comments about me on Instagram. And many of the adults in my life will be too busy or too distracted to help me out. So I just need someone like you with your experience to help me navigate through it. I can do it. I have motivation. I have skills. I have intelligence. Right now those are being used just to stay afloat. When things settle, I can prove to you that I am capable of more than meets the eye.
I need just a little encouragement, but I need it before the calendar turns to May. I need to know that I matter. Just some sort of personal focus, that’s it. I need a little less negativity from you when things start to head south, because your negativity does just that: it negates any effort I may put forth toward your class. And by the way, please don’t take my apathy in your class personally. I’m not exactly writing masterful essays in English and then choosing not to find the area of a triangle in geometry. I’m lost all around. At that critical juncture of the year when things could go either way, I don’t need a miracle, but I could use a push in the right direction.