Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

In the End, No One Really Cares

The other day, I told a student that I didn't care if he failed. I'm sure he thought I was crazy. And likely the counsellor who was sitting in on the conversation was thinking the same thing. To her credit, she didn't say it out loud.

The student that I was speaking to had been missing classes. In the first month and a half of classes, he'd probably missed more than he'd attended. As a result of this, and several other factors, he was failing all of his classes. One of which he was repeating for the second time. He had come to school on this day, late, but he'd come. Perhaps as a result of the conversation that I'd had with his mom the day before. To be honest, I was just so happy to see him, all I could do initially was grin at him. Thus the, "this woman is crazy" look on his face...

As we waited for his counsellor to join us, I asked him what his favourite thing was about school. He stared at me blankly, and then slowly began to shake his head from side to side. He didn't know. He couldn't think of anything. Although I maintained my smile, inside my heart was sinking. A month a half into school, and there wasn't a single thing that this student could think of that he liked so far. But after a minute or two of gentle probing, he finally thought of something. He liked cooking. Awesome.

In attempt to put him at ease a bit, I began to tell him a little about myself. I'm new to the school, and so I'm meeting many of our 1200 students for the first time. I shared that I'd struggled in school myself, that I'd also failed classes. His eyes widened. I told him that when I'd interviewed for my current position, no one had asked me when I'd learned how to read (grade 2), how many times I'd failed math (twice), or how many awards I'd won (one, in grade 8 Band- thank you Mr. Green). They didn't care about any of that stuff. They just cared about where I was now.

As the counsellor entered, our conversation continued. I told him that "success" might look a little bit different for him. It might take him a few more times through a course, an extra year in high school, some additional support through it all. And I also told him that I didn't care if he failed a class. I just wanted him to come. That we would worry about the whole "passing" thing a little later on...

As we set out a plan for the following week, one that includes him stopping by in the mornings to say hi to me before he sets off for class, I reminded him that five, ten years from now, no one would really care where he'd started out...they would just care where he finished. I'm not sure if he believed me. He probably still thinks I'm a bit crazy. But as long as I get to say hi to him every single morning next week, I'm ok with that...

My one & only. Thank you Mr. Green. 


  1. Hi Sarah,
    I love this! You are so correct here. Kids need to know that there is life outside of school and there is life on the other side of their now. School is a process... a rite of passage... I wish school was more engaging and meaningful for so many of our students who struggle and who just don't see the importance. For many, what they are learning just isn't important, and, to be honest, they are right much of the time.

    I equate this to running a marathon or half-marathon .... or any race, for that matter .... we all end up with the same medal at the end of it all. The same diploma. The same accomplishment. It may just look differently for some. It may take some longer. It doesn't mean those who finished the race faster did it "better".

    I hope he continues to come say Hi to you each morning! You are making a difference.... one student at a time ...


    1. I like the analogy of a race- for some a sprint, others a jog, others a more challenging marathon. There are so many variables that our students are coping with, and discovering the context of each student takes time. It's an impossible task on our own, and requires the support and input of all members of the school community- staff, parents, and students. Each one provides a small piece of a very complex puzzle. A huge responsibility...but what an awesome privilege!

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments Tia. :)

  2. Love this post Sarah <3. Tia, your race comment reminded me of a post I wrote years ago, so I have dug it up and shared it on my blog.

    What I love Sarah, is that you were able to share with him how it's not always about academics, the starting point is showing up, and that you believed that he could do this. You welcomed him in, instead of admonishing for being late. I do hope he continues to appear at your door every morning!

    1. Thanks for sharing your post Karen. Your analogy makes something abstract more tangible & accessible for kids & adults. A journey that is unique for each of us!