Today I am starting a series where I write a short letter to my imaginary student, named Seaman Smith. I don't think I've had a Smith in my class yet, but I figured it was a good name to use since it's so common, and it's my name. The point is that this student doesn't exist. He is a conglomeration of all of my students. I write these letters in order to say what I can't openly say in the classroom.
Dear Seaman Smith,
Today was a rough day, wasn't it? I know you had trouble with that particular concept. You're not the first who's struggled with the level of math we're doing in this course of instruction. Some of the problem was that this was one of your first tests at this school. You're bound to run in to issues, as many of your classmates did. Several of them, even the ones who knew the material almost as well as I do, struggled to pass the test. It's a fact of life and I don't think it bothered them much.
But it bothered you, didn't it? It's ok that it did, at least at some level. You made a hard choice when you left college to become a Sailor and it would look horrible if you weren't cut out to do this. Yet you sell yourself short by thinking that you aren't going to make it. You're overestimating the struggle here.
I'm not worried about you one bit, at least not academically. You're a bright student who will do well as you get further into the course. However, I'm concerned at how much you judge yourself for one failure. I need sailors who will persevere when things are not going well. Giving up on yourself because you didn't make it on your first try is not perseverance. Push forward and you will be fine. I'm sure of it. I have never wanted a student to fail in this course of instruction. Minor failures happen from time to time, but what I mean is that I don't want anyone to be dropped from the program for failing. I certainly don't want them being dropped because they gave up.
I wish I could tell you more about my hope for you, and God's hope for you. As time goes on, I'll get the chance to do the former, at least through these letters. Unfortunately, I will have to pray that God sends someone else to tell you about His hope for you, as I have to be careful about how much of my faith I share in the classroom.
The bottom line is that I have hopes for you. I don't want you to fail. I want you to succeed. I want you to do great things. You'll get to your ship after all of your schooling is completed and you'll suddenly realize that all of this worry through schooling was just that…worry. You're going to do well, you just wait and see.
Ahhh, the voice of a teacher: always the things we'd like to say but probably shouldn't because it's not considered "professional."
I've actually had quite a few conversations with kids very similar to this. I tend to avoid the political correctness for a more honest approach. Parents tend to like it, too.
The irony Nate is that I've been able to have some good conversations too, ones that I didn't think were supposed to happen. My students aren't little henchmen waiting for me to say something that they don't want to hear so they can go report me. They respect me, and that leads to opportunities to be frank with them. It's pretty cool really.
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