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Power of Perseverance

June 13, 2012

We all have those students who stick with us. Mine is Steven (I wrote about him here).

I think about Steven weekly, wondering if the state allowed him to move on from the 4th grade or if he’s still in school at all. He came to my 6th grade class from a 4th grade classroom in another state. He couldn’t read well enough to pass the state mandated test to move on to the next grade. Steven was a developing reader when he left my classroom in 2009. The last time he called me, he revealed that he recently got out of jail at age 14 for theft. Everything in his life was inconsistent at best, and there was nothing I could do about it.

When I read The Education of Dasmond Cathey, I immediately thought of Steven. Both come from a tough background, full of people who failed to believe in them. Both both boys struggle to read and write. But Steven and Dasmond are different. Dasmond is an athlete whose athletic abilities helped gain attention from colleges and tutors looking to help him. Steven never had anyone telling him to try athletics. He never had anyone tell him that he can go to college if he perseveres. He never had someone believe in him long enough.

These stories break my heart. Although I’ve never met Dasmond, I feel like I failed him because I am part of the education community. At the same time, I’m thrilled that he has been lucky enough to encounter people who have taught him the power of perseverance. It’s wonderful that he has been able to continue working through his obstacles. I’ve met Steven and I know I failed him by not giving him enough support to stick around in my classroom. The worst part is that there are thousands of students like Dasmond and Steven, and this is the problem.

It’s my sincere hope that the move toward more rigorous standards and more effective teaching will prevent stories like these in the future. Students should be able to rely on their academic knowledge and skills, in addition to their remarkable perseverance to succeed in college.

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