“You need to graduate for your Mama!” The student at the receiving end of the comment held his head down, quietly acknowledging the truth being loudly directed at him from the barrel chested veteran teacher across the room. Weeks ago, another teacher tried unsuccessfully to get this kid to change his ways, but you can tell that hearing it from the advisor he’s had for a couple years might make him think a little harder about it. So when the kid said to these teachers that he wanted to work 50 hours a week as a grocery store manager while going to school, because he wanted to help get his mom and his family an actual house, his advisor called him out. Over the next 20 minutes he walked his kid through the flaws in putting off school for a 50 hour a week job with as much animation and flair as you would see in a daytime talkshow. After drawing a chart on the board, making the kid laugh and then bringing the kid to tears, he finally delivered the haymaker, “I’ve talked to your Mom, and she said her greatest wish is for you to come to school. You need to graduate for your Mama!”
The kid was quiet. At this point, he’d crying long enough that there was no need to act hide his emotions. Certainly emotional, but it wasn’t if clear he “got it”. He could wake up tomorrow and go to school inspired, but what is going to be behind this new resolve? Getting the kid to agree to new behavior will only be successful if he changes the thinking behind the behavior. If someone just told him “Go to your internship!” and avoided the show that I got to witness, why would that student decide to listen?
- Because this teacher is mean?
- Because he’s ashamed of not being like his peers?
- Because he’s “supposed” to go to college?
These passion behind these reasons will ultimately wane if this kid doesn’t connect school success to what he really wants. If he doesn’t know WHY he needs to change, this talk will have little effect because they won’t address his current thinking, that his family needs him to work 50 hours a week. No one knows this more than the 22 year-old veteran teacher who turned my lunch period into a Dr. Phil episode (if Dr. Phil used to play street ball at Rucker Park in the 80’s).