Thursday, February 28, 2008

"You can't save them all"

If we've just met, I'm a teacher. I'm many other things, but in most (if not all) of those things, I'm also a teacher.

Yesterday I was venting to one of my colleagues about a specific high schooler in my care, and how I couldn't figure out how to motivate this kid to turn stuff in and pass my class. There was a block there, and I needed to break it, and I couldn't figure out how.

"Story," said my colleague, "You can't save them all. You're young, but you'll learn. You can't save them all."

That's a lesson I don't ever want to learn.

Maybe, in truth, I know that I can't save them all, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to give up on this one, or on any of them. Maybe I can see that in the grand scheme of things, some of them will make the wrong choices and I can't stop them, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to accept that a child at the ripe old age of 15 is just lost and beyond my help. And even if this person is going to continue to make the wrong choices, shouldn't he see me trying to save him? Shouldn't he see that I care enough to try, that someone does? Because even if I don't see it now, mightn't that make a difference at some point down the line?

The truth is, in teaching as in many other things I'm sure, that we often don't get to see who we saved. The ones that we thought hung on our every word are sometimes the ones who slip away while the ones who appear not to care can come back a year later gushy and teary with thanks. Even ten years after I graduated high school, I still look back gratefully at things my teachers gave me, and it's not the things I thought I'd look back on. I wonder if they know that. I hope they do.

So, maybe you can't save them all. But you need to try to save them all. Otherwise, what's the point?


Wil said...

Great post!

I'll be back in a classroom this fall, and I can't imagine accepting that I can't reach them all. I might know it to be true, but as you said, that doesn't mean you give up trying.

You are doing the right thing!

sort-of grown-up said...

You're so right to not give up on trying to reach out to a kid who needs it.

I keep trying to elaborate more on my experience and school and that of my friends, but it's not coming out very well. It's summarized by the first sentence. Thank you for not writing off the kid as a lost cause. I bet many of us could have looked like we weren't worth the effort at some points.


Aspiring to be a Cheesecake said...

Thank you so much for this post! I'm so glad my friend introduce me to your blog. I am a recent graduate from a four-year college and I am about to enter a masters program to become a teacher.

I am both excited and scared for pursuing this career. I think i work well with youth and want to be a good educator promoting social change. But my worst fear is that I wont be able to save everyone because it seem impossible. i guess the problem is, i really want to save everyone. But your words really helped me understand that even if I can't save them all, I still need to try my best to do it. Like you said, you can't save them all but it does not mean that you stop trying. I will do my best!

Thank you! :)