Friday, September 14, 2007

Success Story 2

It was not that long ago that kids were not required to take all those hard, academic courses that they had no interest in. Maybe some coasted by, and maybe some took courses beneath their intellectual level, but they got that much needed diploma. If they had been forced to take the more difficult courses there is a good chance they might have dropped out.

I met a former student today who was one of those kids. He was a student of mine in a pre-algebra class. I can honestly say Seth was one of the slowest kids in that class. He talked constantly about becoming an engineer and no amount of talk on my part could make him see that he needed math. To make matters worse for me, he was a friend of my son's and I knew his parents and grandparents. No matter how hard everyone pushed, he could not do the work.

Seth graduated high school and attended community college. He graduated and is now finishing his last year at Stony brook. He is publishing his first paper soon. He plans on going to Cal Tech for graduate school in computer engineering. It has taken him eight years to complete what others do in four but complete he did. If we had pushed him more in high school he might have ended up as a dropout. If we had dummied down the exams, he might not have been ready for the rigors of college. He admitted to me today that he did nothing in high school. He just was not interested.

Some people have to mature into school. Some people will never reach intellectual heights. That is just the way it is.


CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Sometimes it takes a while for kids to find their way. I went to college for two years right out of high school--and then dropped out of college for 9 years! It wasn't until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life that I returned to college, got my B.A. and a master's--and I've changed careers twice since then!

Anonymous said...

These are the stories that give us strength to do the work we are doing. Beautifully written! Shana tova to you!

Catherine Johnson said...



Your feeling now, I gather, is that this student can be successful in computer engineering?

(That is, the 8 years to degree was a function of lack of interest, not lack of core ability - ?)

Pissedoffteacher said...

Who knows? I didn't see the ability when he was in my class. Engineering is not easy. And he did go to a good school.

People do succeed even without the proper background. While I was on sabbatical a few years ago I met a woman who was majoring in math, with plans to be a math teacher. She began her studies in remedial classes and was taking calc II and statistics when I met her, running a 4.0 index so I guess anything is possible.