I read the March 23 Times' article, "Seattle puts its troubled schools on list, on notice," noting that my beloved school, Cleveland High School, in which I have taught language arts for six years now, is the No. 1 focus high school for low student test scores.
It is not from poor teaching that our test scores may be low. To say that every school must have high test scores is like saying no person may ever get sick, no patient may ever die and that "all good dogs go to heaven." We know that is simply not true.
One of the questions I ask on my final test is "What more can I do as your teacher to make you want academic excellence?" Without exception, every student says, "You're already doing everything you can. If the student doesn't want it, there is nothing more you can do."
Having nonachieving or low-functioning students keeps me awake at night, trying to think of new ways I can reach them. I try to make learning fun and encourage student input so I can always be improving. I will speak for myself, but I know I represent many others who go beyond the call of duty to meet student needs.
I stand at my door every class period to greet them by name, engaging in small talk and bonding with them. I smile at them, verbally exhort and encourage them, have fun with them, sing to them, bake them cookies, remember their birthdays and call them on holidays and vacations.
I take pictures of them to put up in the room, giving them the
twin prints, visit them in jail, write them in the service, buy baby gifts, attend special functions, write notes of encouragement and letters of recommendation, and oh yes, I try to teach them, too. I do everything humanly possible to motivate them, and superhumanly too, because I also pray for them.
I am called to be a teacher. I love it so much, I would do it for free! I rejoice when I get new students and I cry when I lose my old ones. They are "my kids."
When I am 90 and they are 60, I will still be their "teacher" and they will still be my "students."
There is more to teaching than test scores. There is head knowledge and then there is heart knowledge. We, as teachers, are expected to be miracle workers, but the greatest work we do is helping to mold wonderful human beings who can go out into the world and make it a better place to be.
When I die one day, I hope it will be standing-room only at my funeral, the church filled to overflowing with former students who know that I helped make a difference in their lives, and that I did the best, with the best Cleveland High School students. I still believe in miracles.
Gail Evans Cleveland High School teacher