In my classroom, and the other four English 1 classrooms at my Institute school, we have a goal. That goal, part of our big vision, is for 100% of our students to pass summer school. (It’s not our only goal, but it is one of the main ones!) To keep our kids invested in this goal, and to ensure we are always working towards it, we have a wall of posters in the back of the room – one for each class- with a giant “100%” written on each. Our first week of class, we asked students for their goals this summer, and posted them on post-it notes in the “1″ section of the “100%.” This way, when we needed to get everyone back on track, we could look at our poster and be reminded of why we were doing everything.
This week we asked the students to write down a more general life goal and to put it themselves on the first “0″ on the poster. I was impressed to see the majority of my students’ goals were not simply to “pass summer school and never have to come back again,” as they were last week. Instead, I had students writing about their dream colleges – one student even wrote that he wants to play football for the University of Texas, which almost made me tear up a bit at the thought of helping a student get into my beloved alma mater. Another student wants to go to Harvard, and I now know it is my job to help her over the next two weeks to understand exactly what it will take for her to get there. Others wrote dreams of attending Baylor, or the University of Houston. Regardless of where they want to go, I love how many of them are already thinking about college. They are going into the tenth grade, and a big focus of mine is helping them understand that there is still time. They can turn everything around and get to these great schools. It will take hard work, and it will most likely take a lot of asking for help along the way. But they can get there.
TFA is very adement that every student NEEDS to go to college. In a world where “entry level” jobs now means 1-2 years experience, it is hard to imagine finding a solid, well-paying job without a bachelor’s degree. Hell, even unpaid internships often require a degree! My goal is to get these students on a path to college. But I also think that there is value in other careers and paths that do not lead you to a degree. One of my favorite students this summer (am I allowed to have favorites? I really do love them all, but he goes above and beyond all expectations almost all the time!) wrote that his goal is to graduate high school and join the Marines. And I think that is an honorable goal. I think even more important than attending college is simply having the understanding that we choose our futures, and our own hard work can help us get to whatever future we want for ourselves. If I had a student who wanted to be a bus driver or a janitor, or any other career that many people scoff at, I will support him or her. Those are both honorable and important positions. I want my students to know that they can go wherever they set their minds to. I want them to understand the situation they as individuals were born into, and to figure out what it takes to get wherever they want to go. They aren’t settling because they think they can only end up in one or two careers. They will choose their path in life, and decide for themselves where they will end up.
I think I went into a bit of a tangent away from the idea of our 100% goals. But my head is seriously a jumbled mess of all these thoughts right now. So, to close, I will share two of my favorite goals from today’s activity. First, ever the jokester, my student D wrote his goal is to “go to college and be a power ranger or ninja turtle.” And the one that hit me right in the feels, from my favorite student C, “My goal is to finish school and become someone in my life so I can support my wife and kids.”