Promise: My Short Story Of the Week

Promise

 

“Why did I ask you to stay after class?”

“Because you’re a punk.”

“No, Sam. Try again.”

Mr. Hardy could see the surprise on Sam’s face. He figured that “punk” comment would get him sent straight to the office.

“I don’t know.”

“I think you do. The test.”

“What about it?”

“You played on your phone the whole time. You didn’t answer a single question.”

“I didn’t read the book.”

“Sam, we listened to it on audio as we read along. You at least heard it.”

“Don’t you have another class coming in or something?”

“No, this is my conference period. We’ve got plenty of time.”

“I need to get to my next class.”

“I’ll write you a pass.”

“Ms. Johnson gets pissed if students come in late without a pass. I don’t want to be on her bad side.”

“I’ll write you a pass when we’re done. I promise.”

“Come on, Mr. Hardy. I need to go.”

“Tell me why you didn’t take the test, and then I’ll let you go.”

“I didn’t know the answers.”

“I watched you. You didn’t even try the first page.”

They both stood at the front of the class. Sam ran his hands up and down his backpack straps. He looked everywhere but at Mr. Hardy.

“Sam?”

“ … There’s no point.”

“To what?”

“To the test.”

“The test is how I assess your knowledge.”

“I don’t mean it like that. The test doesn’t make any difference.”

“Look, Sam, I know you’re failing, but you’re right on the edge. This test could put you over the top.”

“You know I’m not going to graduate, right?”

“What? We’re only halfway through the first semester. Of course you’re going to graduate.”

“No, I mean, I’m not going to graduate. Like, it’s not going to happen.”

“You’re quitting school?”

“No.”

“Sam … I’m confused. You’re a senior on track to graduate.”

“Can I go now?”

“No, Sam, I want to get to the bottom of this.”

“You’re being a total dick.”

Sam locked eyes with Mr. Hardy. He hoped that one would send him to the principal.

“Call me whatever you want. We’re having this conversation.”

After throwing his head back, exasperated, Sam slid off his backpack and plopped down into a nearby desk. He took out his phone.

“You can graduate. It sounds like you’re making a conscious decision not to graduate.”

Sam scrolled with his finger. He left his earbuds out, though, so Mr. Hardy knew he had Sam’s attention.

“Don’t you want to graduate?”

“What’s the point?”

“College. Junior college. Trade school. A job.”

“I can’t pay for college.”

“There are scholarship opportunities, grants, that kind of thing.”

“That’s what you all keep telling me, but I don’t know where to find that stuff.”

“Our guidance counselors can help you. They want to help students take advantage of those things.”

“Yeah. I went down there. Mr. Vonn found a few for me, sent me the links, then told me to come back when I looked at them.”

“Did you look at them?”

“Yeah. I didn’t know how to answer half the questions.”

“Like what?”

“Like how much my mom makes in a year. How am I supposed to know that?”

“Did you ask her?”

Sam glared at Mr. Hardy like he was an idiot.

“Okay, how about we make arrangements for you to come in after school and I can sift through it with you. We can figure it out together. We’ll ballpark those numbers they want.”

“Then what?”

“Then we maybe get you into a junior college or trade school or something.”

Sam didn’t blink as he asked, “Then what?”

“Then you’re off and running.”

“You’re serious?”

“I’m serious.”

“What makes you think I know how to do college?”

“It’s very similar to high school in terms of structure—”

“I’ve got friends at college. They say it’s not like high school at all. I know a guy getting kicked out, and he’s not even getting his money back.”

“Well, that may be true. You have to maintain a certain grade point average. If you don’t, they can make you leave.”

“Nobody in my family has ever gone to college. I can’t pay for it, I don’t know how to do it, and I wouldn’t fit in.”

“I can help you with all that.”

“Really? Are you going to be there for me the whole time? All four years?”

“I … I’ll do my best. Of course, I have two kids of my own. This job demands a lot of my attention as well. I can’t promise—”

“Exactly. People like you love to make promises to people like me, but people like you never make good—not all the way through. People like me? We have to face reality.”

“Which is?”

Sam emitted a chuckle. “The best I can hope for is some minimum wage job. That’s my life, Mr. Hardy. That’s what the future has in store for me. I’m always going to worry about food, rent, money—everything. I bet your kids have a nice house, a yard, their own bed. Hell, they probably even have their own bedrooms …”

“ … They do.”

“Here? I like it here. There’s no one from the outside. I see my friends. The place is clean. There’s food. The teachers can’t mess with me. Why would I want to go out there when it’s so good in here?”

“But … but your future …”

“Look, can I go now or what?”

Mr. Hardy appeared dumbfounded. He whispered, “You’re only a kid …”

“Can I go now?”

Snapping back to attention, Mr. Hardy said, “Yeah. You can go.”

Sam kept his phone in his one hand and snatched up his backpack with the other, then hustled out of the room.

“ … I forgot to write his pass.”


Copyright © 2019 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

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In Honor Of the Greatest Educator I Know

As Teacher Appreciation Week draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment and recognize the greatest educator I know.  Her name is Kristen Foley, and she happens to be my wife.

This is not favoritism, though.  If I only knew Kristen on a professional basis, my opinion of her teaching would not change.

I’ve known Kristen for seventeen years.  In that time, her commitment and dedication to teaching has not wavered–not once.  She has never compromised her standards, and she has not once taken the easy way out.

Kristen is quite demanding of her third grade students.  She expects the best that they can individually offer and she wants it on a daily basis.  She holds them accountable for both their academic performance and their personal actions.  However, I guarantee you that every single one of her students, year after year, comes out of her class both an improved student and person.

That’s not to say she’s a taskmaster, though.  I’m often amazed at how silly she’s willing to be in front of them.  It’s not unusual to find her dancing with them during brain breaks or to catch her singing like a rock star.  She is constantly striving to make her classes fun with innovative lessons, dramatic performances, cutting-edge technology, creative activities, and special keepsakes.

And while she asks for the best from her students and her school, she expects even more from herself.  Kristen demands 100% effort from herself all of the time.  She’s been that way from the day I met her, and she’ll be that way until the day she retires.

Once we put the kids to bed, she’s instantly back to work.  She is always grading papers, developing lesson plans, writing newsletters, returning emails–I don’t know anyone who puts in more time than she does.

As a fellow teacher, I sometimes suggest she ease off the accelerator a bit.  I’ve often worried that she’ll burn herself out.  But that’s the difference between Kristen and most other teachers–she literally cannot burn herself out on this.  She loves it.  She loves teaching.  She loves being an educator.  She loves her students.  She loves it in a way most of us cannot understand.

I’m thankful we still have teachers like Kristen Foley.  She is, without question, the best of the best.

Mrs. Foley Classroom

 

Meet Kevin Suess: Educator Extraordinaire, Activist, and Good Man

Back in 1995 when I was just a freshmen at Illinois State University, a guy lived down the hall from me named Kevin Suess.  We became friends, and I’m glad to say it’s a friendship that has lasted almost twenty years.

Even back in 1995, Kevin struck me as an honest person, a guy who put others before himself, and a man unafraid to take risks.  With the advent of MySpace, Facebook, and later Twitter, Kevin and I got back in touch about eight or nine years ago.

Around that time, I took two years off to stay at home with my first daughter.  I don’t know if Kevin realizes it or not, but we would have coffee often during that time and he inspired me on a regular basis to be a better teacher, to truly grow passion for my career, and to wake up every morning excited to go to work.

When I returned to teaching in 2010, I was a new man, and I’ve loved my job ever since.  I owe it in large part to Kevin Suess.  I’m not even sure if he knows the impact he had upon me, for he’s the kind of person who leads unassumingly.

But it’s not just me Kevin influences.  He teaches high school Social Studies, he’s the chair of the department at his workplace, he is the president of the Illinois Geographical Society, and he’s the vice president of Bike BloNo, which is a group focused on making Bloomington-Normal more bicycle friendly.  In fact, he and his group recently got the city of Bloomington to move ahead on a bicycle master plan, so be on the lookout for that.  Kevin was also invited by National Geographic to attend a research voyage in 2010 to the arctic circle near Norway.    I’m sure there’s even more that I don’t know about, but as you can see, Kevin is a fascinating individual.

Furthermore, he’s a loving husband and caring father.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe he and his wife met long ago in my apartment during my junior year of college.  If I do indeed remember correctly, that is quite an honor for me.

I do hope you’ll support Kevin’s endeavors however possible.

Connect with Kevin at the following …

BikeBloNo’s Twitter Account

NormalGeo Twitter Account

Picture From The Pantagraph

Do Me a Solid and Show Some Love To a Teacher

I’ve taught high school English for twelve years.  I happen to work in a great district, my pay is nice, my hours are good, my benefits are adequate, and the vacations are ample.  Best of all?  I get to have a positive impact upon the world on a daily basis.  I have the opportunity to lead by example, to show young people the right way, and to be a role model.  I take those things seriously while having fun doing it.

So I’m not complaining about being a teacher.  I love being a teacher.  I think I’ve got one of the greatest jobs in the world.  But, like most jobs, I won’t say it’s easy.  The one thing I didn’t expect when I entered the profession is the emotional toll.  Engaging with nearly 125 teenagers every day is a roller coaster, and it’s sometimes challenging to remember that I’m the adult, I’m the professional, I’m the role model.

It gets especially hard around election time.  That’s when politicians like to use education as ammunition.  That’s when we hear our students aren’t good enough, our teachers aren’t good enough, and our schools aren’t good enough.  Politicians love to beat up on education because it’s something every American can relate to in some capacity.  We’ve all been to school, right?

And, like most jobs, teachers typically don’t hear much from the public unless something has gone wrong, unless there is a complaint of some sort.  Like I said, this isn’t unusual for any job, but I just wanted to point out that it’s true of education as well.

So here’s what I’m asking of you, here’s the solid I request.  If you have a child in school, please try to find something nice to say to the teacher about the job being done.  Even if you don’t have a child, please get in touch with a former teacher for whom you have positive memories and let them know they did right by you.  I can personally attest that these small gestures mean the world to educators and can do much to recharge the batteries, especially when considering the current month!

About once a semester, I get a personal note from a student.  The student often lets me know that they appreciated my efforts, my passion, my humor, or simply my kindness.  I cherish those letters.  I save them like they are bricks of gold.  I wont’ lie – I pull them out when things are a little rough and use them to bolster myself.

The gesture you show a teacher today could literally encourage them for years to come.

We all need a little cheering on from time to time, and teachers are no different.

Thanks for the solid.

 

Please Help Support My Donors Choose Project – “Give Students High Interest Books and They Will Read!”

Hi Friends,

As you may know, I’m a high school English teacher in Bloomington, IL, and I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to succeed. So I’ve created a classroom project request at DonorsChoose.org, an award-winning charity.

I’m asking for donations of any size to help my kids.  If you give by August 21, any donation you make to my project will be doubled (up to $100). If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students’ school year, and you’ll get photos and thank yous from our class.

Here’s my classroom request.  Simply click on it:
Give Students High Interest Books and They Will Read!

To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the match code INSPIRE on the payment screen. This awesome match offer lasts through August 21, 2013.

My students and I greatly appreciate your support.  A good book can change a student’s life forever.  Please help me put such a book in my students’ hands.

Sincerely,
Scott

DonorsChoose.org

No Fear In My Classroom by Frank C. Wootan – A Book Review

By and large, No Fear In My Classroom offers one man’s opinion on how to deal with fear in the classroom and fearful aspects of being an educator.  While many of his points are possible, most of them are unlikely to occur and could needlessly frighten you.  As he says, though, it’s always good to plan ahead even if improbable.

I have to admit up front that I was skeptical of Mr. Wootan because he had been in the insurance business thirty years prior to becoming an educator.  I kept asking myself, “What brought him into education at such a late stage?  Extra money?  Research to write books?  Or a burning desire to enter a profession he’d always dreamt of?”  Sadly, he never directly answered my questions, though I do admire him for freely discussing his past as a businessman and often giving examples as to how it helped serve him as an educator.

No Fear In My Classroom takes a rather common sense approach to teaching, and if you’re not a first-year teacher, you probably already know your thoughts on many of Wootan’s topics.  Some of his “fear” subjects were a bit over-the-top in my mind, however, if nothing else, Wootan’s book is a good vehicle for reflection and, in some cases, even gave me new and helpful ideas.

I wouldn’t describe Wootan’s writing style as particularly dynamic, though it is easily digestible. He makes a point to offer some very interesting statistics as well as noting a few beneficial websites.  It’s written in a very businesslike fashion, which would stand to reason considering his background.

If you’re a first-year teacher, Wootan brings up several points that are probably good to think about, though most of them will never occur in your classroom.  Just try not to become overwhelmed by the possibilities he brings up.  I think if you’re a seasoned teacher and you’re capable of picking and choosing what you want to take to heart from what you read, No Fear In My Classroom is also a helpful refresher.

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter – A Book Review

Though not particularly full of machismo, I am not prone to cry, but this book made the old eyes water just a bit.

Based on a true story during Taliban-occupied Afghanistan, Nasreen is a little girl whose parents are taken by Taliban troops.  She retreats within herself, no longer smiling or talking.  Desperate, her grandmother takes her to a secret school—a place forbidden for young girls by the Taliban.  There Nasreen is given a glimpse of the outside world, a place where artistry, intelligence, and learning is valued.

Aimed at children, I picked this book up for my own daughter.  I wanted her to have a worldly view.  However, I think I learned just as much from Nasreen’s Secret School as she will.  It reaffirmed my faith in the power of education and the importance of allowing children all over the world to learn.  It reminded me that through academics, a child can realize self-worth and overcome isolation.  It made me proud to be an educator myself.

The art is magnificent as well.  And though delivered in a simple fashion, it only serves to bolster the emotional impact of an already powerful narrative.  They are stunning not just for their colors and style, but for the passion they convey.

I completely recommend Nasreen’s Secret School not just for children, but also for adults who may have forgotten the significance of a child’s education.