Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Making it to the Finish Line

One of my favorite students has decided to exit the program.

It took me by surprise. The option to exit instead of complete the program has been available to her for a long time. She seemed determined to complete the program and redeem the year plus she has spent with me. I really believed she could do it. She had the intent (one of our three key ingredients to learning a process) and she was even putting in extra time at home.

So what happened? Over the past year, we've talked about her insecurities in the educational realm. We've talked about her family and her struggle to feel accepted by her in-laws. We've talked about her seven year old son's intellectual zeal. All of these things were battling against her.

So much of education is a sales pitch. I'm actually pretty passionate about what I do. I believe it works. I would love to see all of my students graduate rather than merely satisfy the company's minimum requirements. I've seen lives changed for the better. I've seen my former students get promoted as a result of their new ease with reading, and therefore increased capacity to take in knowledge. I've had students tell me I've taught them more than anyone else in their lives. I've listened to stories of students buying their first ever novel, starting to read their mail, feeling confident about reading to their children and grandchildren. So I know that what I do works and matters.

But that's the other side. That's the end of the road. That's after the struggle. That's after several pep talks. That's after hours of wondering if this is really going to work. It's the victory at the end of the war.

Isn't that life? Wondering if the victory will be real? If the struggle and the strife and the pain and the time will be redeemed? And wondering most of all, if we'll make it?

From Robertson McQuilken's poem, Let Me Get Home Before Dark:

It's sundown, Lord.
The shadows of my life stretch back
Into the dimness of the years long spent.
I fear not death, for that grim fore betrays himself
at last,
Thrusting me forever into life:
Life with you, unsoiled and free.
But I do fear.
I fear the Dark Spectre may come too soon--
or do I mean too late?
That I should end before I finish or
finish, but not well.
That I should stain your honor, shame your name,
grieve your loving heart.
Few, they tell me, finsih well...
Lord, let me get home before dark.

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