I have been affected by things students do and say. I have had many ups and downs of things that happened at school. I had many students with a less than optimum home life. But this was different.
It is hard for middle school students to self-advocate for many different reasons. One, it is hard to do even for adults. Two, they are afraid to ask for help from an adult. Three, they don’t want to be rejected. Recently, a student self-advocated in a way I didn’t expect.
I have a student who is very bright, but not living up to the student’s potential. Typical middle school student. Our team had a student-teacher conference. No improvement. Protocol would move to parent-teacher-student conference. As these things go, the student was upset and we all are working toward helping this student succeed. However, a few days later something happened. The student asked for a private meeting with me. Which meant meeting in my doorway as classes changed periods. This short meeting sent my head spinning. The student just simply stated, “Don’t give up on me.” In all the years I have been in education, I have never had a student say to me, “Don’t give up on me.” Whoa, I couldn’t believe it. Who would give up on a child? I told the student, “NEVER!” I was saddened by the fact that this young person thought that was even a possibility. Some students need more attention or help than others, but never, ever, do we give up. I might get mad. I might be disappointed. But never, ever give up. Ever. I said, “I treat you like I treat my own children (for better or worse), I will be hard on you but I will never give up. No matter how old you are!” Later that day, I came home and cried. I went through the day’s events and really processed what the student was saying. Don’t reject me. Love me for who I am. Help me. Don’t give up on me. Wow, I never want my students to feel that way.
I am grateful this young person felt safe to come to me with this request. Everyone gets what they need. This student is going to need a bit more attention and push. That is ok. It is what this young person needs now. But give up? NEVER!