Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dear Truant Student(s) Early in the Semester,

Hey, there! It’s me, your English teacher. We’ve only met a few times because you don’t come to class all that often. I’ve left a phone message or two, and I’ve sent some emails. You could have a personal issue I don’t know about; I wouldn’t know because I don’t know you because I get to know students when they come to class. So, I’m writing this letter as a therapeutic exercise for the helplessness I feel in this situation.

Listen, I get that writing may not be your thing. I may not be your thing either—that’s okay, too. If students come to class and participate, I can help them move forward. I’m not saying I can fix everything that frustrates you about writing, but I can help move you forward. Momentum comes from action, and your first action needs to be to come and participate. I don’t mind doing the heavy lifting. Just come. Just try.

Maybe you’re trying to forget about this class for whatever your reasons are, and I kind of wish I could just forget about students who stop coming to class, too, but that’s not how my job works. I’ve got to tally your attendance, so I see your name each class meeting, and I picture your face, and I wonder where you are, and I ask around, and I leave a message here or there, but you’re not really on anybody’s radar. Come and try for me and be on my radar. Please?

The more absences you accumulate, the less I can see your face in my mind’s eye. We’re approaching the tipping point, the point when I start to accept your absences as an immutable fact and dedicate myself fully to the students in attendance. You start to become a statistic, a stat pulling down my retention scores, one of the numerous reductive ways in which teachers are measured. That retention score doesn’t reflect the problem you have that isn’t getting help, and it doesn’t measure the earnestness I feel when I try to reach out into the ether and pull you into attendance. In fact, the statistic probably demoralizes both of us, racking up higher and higher numbers until we both feel like it’s insurmountable.

Please come to class. Come soon.

Take care,

Ms. K

co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So true. We should post this letter on school servers, hallways, bathrooms, anywhere a student might visit.
The marginalized often feel abandoned and at the very least inconsequential. Your letter states it all - teachers and admin care.
However the student's responsibility is clear as well. The truant is not around and misses opportunities to solve issues he may be facing; for "something" to interest him - to capture his imagination - to allow others into his world and help. All too often the truant becomes a statistic.
I think, letter to truant voices the educator's helplessness is such situations. M.