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A Favorite Student Found in a "Flunky"
Kayla Christianson was a great high school teacher. She loved the students, and she pushed them while supporting them. She gave anyone her spare time if they needed tutoring or to discuss an assignment. Many said that she was one of the hardest teachers that they had had. However, majority always added that they learned so much from her class and that she was one of their favorite teachers. The other teachers liked her also. In school terms, she was the “awesome popular teacher.” High school was her life.
She claimed that she learned even more from the students than she taught them. Many teachers could agree with her. She truly wanted to get to know the students. By the end of the year she knew their strengths and weaknesses academically. She even got to know many of them on a personal level. Some of her previous students that had advanced in life came by to say “hi” occasionally. Seeing a refreshing old smile or a new one when something clicked on a student’s mind was what truly made her job so rewarding.
She tried her hardest to help everyone pass the class. Extra credit was always allowed, and partial credit was awarded. She looked at the effort and how much the student had learned on top of the visual or obvious quality.
She never shared this, but it always seemed like her favorite students were the ones that excelled and understood all that she taught. She assumed that it was because they seemed to respect her. She could also relate to them on how easily the subject came to them. She cared so much for those that did not do as well, but she did not feel as close to them.
Year after year, it was always the same. Then, that all changed when her eldest child, Carl, ended up getting her for a teacher. She was excited, though she knew that he struggled in the subject that she taught.
He had made her promise that she would treat him like any other student, and she agreed whole-heartedly. She would not show a bias and would judge him just as she did all of the other students. She loved him with all of her heart, but she wasn’t so sure that Carl would end up being one of her favorite students.
The first day of school came, and Carl walked into the classroom with all of his friends. When she took attendance and called his name, he let out an awkward “here” and turned back to his friends. She rolled her eyes as she entered that he was present. He knew that she did not allow talking in her class unless she told the students otherwise. It distracted her along with everyone else.
That year did turn out to be a long year, especially with Carl. Kayla even noticed that Carl was trying his best but still flunking her class. He had done almost everything he could. As his mother, she mentioned pulling football to get his grades up, but his father immediately shot the idea down. He was truly skilled in football and needed that outlet. His grade continued to drop as the year went on, and three months into the year, he was flunking terribly.
As normal, she had developed a relationship with many of the students. Her favorites, even from the beginning, were the ones that really seemed to enjoy her class. The year was going as every other year had gone.
By the nearing end of the first semester, she had all of the honor roll students, the average students, and the flunkies categorized in her mind. She was determined to help those that were struggling bring their grade up before the massive semester final.
Her semester finals were exactly as she described them: massive. They were almost a right of passage that could either make or break their current grade. She was worried that this final would officially break Carl’s grade, not to mention the other two students with F’s in her class.
Therefore, she decided to set up a mandatory tutoring session for the three struggling students. She gave Carl, Timothy, and Amy notices of the meeting and expected them all to show up.
The Friday before the final, she watched her final class of the day exit the room. Typically, she would pack up and leave for the weekend, but she had to meet with Carl, Timothy, and Amy and discuss their grades.
Carl and Amy showed up, and they waited for Timothy. After deciding that he would not show, she began giving them options and study guides for the final. She expressed her concern, and they explained why they were failing. Carl’s excuse was football (nice one, dad), and Amy’s excuse was family (a little better, but depending on the final result she would keep a parent-teacher conference in mind).
Later that night, she got a call from Timothy’s mother. “Hello?” Kayla asked, not recognizing the number.
“Hello, Mrs. Christianson? This is Timothy Farley’s mother.”
“Hello, Mrs. Farley. We missed Timothy at the meeting today.” Kayla settled into a nearby chair.
“I am very sorry about that. Timothy would have been there, but he spends time with his ill grandmother on Fridays.”
“I’m sorry. If I had known I would have scheduled it differently.”
“It’s fine. He understands but could not bring himself to explain why… She passed away today, while he was at her side, Mrs. Christianson.”
Kayla shut her eyes. “I…I am so sorry.”
“Timothy wants to come in for the final, but I have advised him not to. I am calling to ask if there is any way that he can make it up.”
“Any time at the beginning of the next semester would be just fine. There are always students absent…if there is anything that I can do, please do not hesitate to call.”
“That is very kind…I would not request anything, but Timothy has requested that you tutor him to give him distraction while helping him learn.”
“Of course. When would be best?”
“I will have to check with Timothy…he really appreciates your class and teaching. He wants to learn so bad. He was born with a learning disability, and though it is mild it is a hindrance. He loves your class, though.”
Kayla felt her stomach drop. Timothy sounded like such a good guy that was dealing with a sick family member and a learning disability. No wonder he had seemed to really pay attention and yet struggle on assignments and test. “Thank you, Mrs. Farley…I am so sorry to hear about Timothy’s grandmother. I had no idea about that, or about his disability.”
“He does not bring it up…I will not keep you any longer, but I will let you know when would be a good time to set up a tutoring session.”
There was a click on the end of the line, and Kayla hung up the phone. She felt her eyes water, and she fought them back.
“Mom! I think I have this!” she heard Carl’s excited shout from his upstairs room, and she stood up. She walked to his room, trying to forget all that Timothy was going through. She felt so guilty. She tried her best not to stereotype students, but she had not looked past his grade to wonder why it was that way. She was comparing him to Carl and just assumed that he didn’t try enough like Carl didn’t or if he just struggled like Carl did.
“I actually think I finally get this,” he said when he saw that she was in the doorway. “I think I’ll do well on the final.”
She smiled. “That is fantastic, Carl.”
He nodded and went back to his book, and she left him alone to study some more.
She did end up meeting with Timothy, and she could not believe how close she grew to him by the end of the semester. He was such a good kid with some huge obstacles to overcome. Amy, Carl, and Timothy all finished the semester with soaring colors. Amy received a B on the final, Carl an A-, and Timothy a C+. They returned the next semester with a better grasp of what was expected and what they needed to do to succeed. They all also knew that she would tutor whenever they felt like they slowly slipping behind or did not understand something.
As the years went on, her experience with Timothy helped her view students differently. She still related to the students that did well. She still seemed to get to know that students that did well better, also. Her view of those that struggled had changed, though. She put forward the effort to get to know them and figure out how she could help. By getting to know them and getting involved, she found that her favorite students became more diverse grade-wise year to year. By the time that she retired, so many students came and went through her class that she loved. She had a special spot for Timothy Farley, though. That sweet, well-meaning boy had known so much more about life than she had and had taught her so much. Though Carl was her favorite boy on Earth, Timothy was one of her favorite all-time students because he had taught her more than any other student had. She had learned so much from what others would call a “flunky.”