My two-year old is severely attached to me. I write “severely” because I can’t be out of his sight for more than a minute before he comes looking for me. Henry does not have an anxious or fearful personality. He’s just attached.
Sunday morning I put on a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD so that I could sneak in a shower. Joe and our four-year old were at baseball practice. I made sure all of the doors to the house were locked, and then I tiptoed back to my bedroom and turned on the shower.
A minute or two later, in came Henry, toting a bag of cereal. As I lathered up, he sat on the bathroom floor rug, munching away on Reese’s Puffs. I took my time in the shower — shaved my legs even — and I think Henry started to get bored because he started stuffing Reese’s Puffs into the crack where the glass shower doors overlap.
As I was plucking out the soggy brown puffs from the shower and toweling off, I started thinking, If only my students were as attached to me as Henry is, they might have done better on their first grammar test.
Not attached in a creepy, follow-me-into-the-bathroom sort of way (that would be weird), but in a visit-me-more-often-in-my-office sort of way.
There are reasons why my students are in my (developmental) classes: they struggle with grammar, reading and/or writing. Some of them struggle with school in general and learning as a whole. For many of my students, coming to class, taking a few notes and completing a couple of worksheets is not going to be enough. Mastering subordination and coordination, for example, is going to take practice and extra help outside of class, too.
My full-time job at the college is to tutor students in the subjects of English and writing. My office is in the Tutoring & Learning Center. I don’t just keep a few office hours per week; I am in my office 40 hours every week — ready, waiting, and willing to help students, especially my own.
So where are they?
This weekend the baseball team hosted an out-of-town guest, “Hojo.” If you’ve never heard of Howard Johnson before (the former New York Met), don’t feel bad. Neither had I.
When I first heard that Hojo was coming to town, I said “Oh really? That’s nice, but I’m still waiting for the Target and the Starbucks.”
I now know that Hojo is the former switch-hitting third baseman who played for the NY Mets and the Detroit Tigers in the 80’s and 90’s, and who is also a two-time World Series Champion.
Hojo arrived on campus on Friday and ran optional training sessions all weekend for members of the team. Out of a group of 25 guys, only a handful showed up to each session.
Who am I kidding? If a two-time World Series champion doesn’t attract a crowd of baseball players, how do I — a first-year teacher — expect to attract a crowd of students?
I should add here that I have had a handful of students visit me for help outside of class. These are also the same students who are now doing well in the class.
So why don’t the others realize that they may need extra help, too?
There doesn’t seem to be any rational excuse. Our writing center is open until 8 p.m. on weeknights to accommodate students who have full-time jobs and/or families. If students are too shy or embarrassed, I’ve tried to counteract that by encouraging them repeatedly in class not to be afraid to ask for extra help. If it’s a matter of overconfidence in their abilities, I suspect that this issue will be corrected this week when I hand back their exams.
If my students want to do well and advance in their coursework — if they want to achieve their goals — they need to stick by me. As close as Henry does.
I don’t have to convince Henry that he needs me. He just knows. In fact, he may think that he needs me more than he actually does.
Oh how I wish I had this same problem with my students.