Tabula Rasa

Dear Terrence,

PyramidInvesting_DfnFig1_3DPyramidI handed out report cards today along with the notices to your parents about which classes some of you guys are failing for the year. Of course we only include the core academic classes in that list: English, science, math, and social studies. You’re failing all four.

Why?

I think we all know, but you provided eloquently ironic commentary on this when I asked you guys to do your quarterly grade assessment. Three simple questions:

  • What are your grades like?
  • Are your grades what you expected? Why are/aren’t they like you expected?
  • What specific actions can you take to change this for the fourth quarter?

When I took up the papers, yours was blank. Just your name in the corner. Nothing else.

This has your modus operandi throughout the school year. When I ask you about it, you always respond the same: “It’s hard. I don’t get it.” Surely you can’t say the same thing about this, though. Surely you understand this. It’s simple. But it’s hard: self-reflection, honest self-reflection, always is.

As I was thinking about today’s letter to you, I was helping my daughter with her homework. She gets monthly homework tables, and she’s trying to get the whole month done in a single week. Today she had to do the following:

Remember your 3-D shapes. Draw a sphere, cylinder, cube, cone, and pyramid. List something around your house that is shaped like each one.

“Daddy!” she exclaimed, “I can’t do pyramids!”

We looked online, found a drawing of a pyramid, talked about the lighter and darker lines, and she said, “Okay, I can try.”

That’s all you need to do. I’m not looking for perfection; no teacher is looking for perfection. We just need effort. You just need effort, because you’re creating such dangerous habits for yourself with this chronic underachieving.

If I could, I’d sit by you all the time, like I sat by my daughter, but I can’t. No one can. It’s the tragedy and beauty of growing up.

With hope,
Your Teacher

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