“I give up”/“I’ll never forget” / Tales Out of School

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“I give up”/“I’ll never forget” / Tales Out of School

One of my very first junior high students sent an email years later . . . just searched and found me through some internet magic, pre Google. He said, among other things, “I’ve never forgotten the stories you told us.” I hadn’t thought I’d been telling stories back when he was my student, but clearly I had been. His positive emails helped me through the difficult final years of teaching, letting me know it had made a difference.

I have had former students come up to me in stores and restaurants, and it seems that the ones who were the toughest make the most effort to let me know how they have gone on to work, marry, start families . . . as if they want to show me that yes, the efforts were worth it. The turn-arounds are wonderful, even by some that it would have been tempting to give up on.

One young man was failing drama until he said, “That writer hates women” while we were watching Streetcar Named Desire. He backed up his comment with specifics, and I told him there was no way someone that insightful should be failing the class. “You do need this to graduate, don’t you?” He completed extra work with enthusiasm and passed.

*God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”

One time, after multiple attempts to engage a student intent on failing my class for the second time, I turned away saying, “I give up.”
My students rallied in shock, “You can’t give up. You never give up.”
I declared that I knew when I was beaten, and they asked, “Can we try?” Bless them, they did get the recalcitrant scholar to complete one or two assignments, not enough to pass, but perhaps enough to show him he could do more than he thought he could.

A year after retiring, I ran into former students when I was telling stories in a state park. One said, “I miss you. No one tells us stories now.” I hope some started telling . . .

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