I am writing this from a desktop in the living room of a residential treatment center, more commonly known as a group home. I do not go to school, but a teacher comes to the house every weekday to teach us two subjects, which change every six weeks. Currently they are English literature and art. I like school here. We read and write poetry and have recently read the books Z for Zachariah and Catching Spirit Bear. School has always been a challenge for me, and I am trying to catch up on credits. I am in tenth grade, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, and now live in a small town in Utah. The point of this submission is not to have a pity party thrown in my name, but to honor and show my gratitude to my teacher.
At my old high school in Baltimore, there were 1,500 students, so I didn’t really have the luxury of knowing my teachers or having the special education plan I needed. But my current teacher customizes each of our classes so that we are challenged but not overwhelmed.
She doesn’t give us shortcuts in order to get us good grades. She doesn’t let the circuits in our brains sit still and gather dust; she keeps them spinning and stirring, always challenging us with a new problem or a new way of doing something.
Her teaching method is to tell us what the end goal of an assignment is and then allow us to make our own decisions on how to get there. She is always there throughout, not giving us the answers but encouraging us to find our own.
Recently, we had a group meeting because there had been some chaos in the house the previous night. The meeting was during our school time, so our teacher was there. One of the therapists brought up the system of checks and balances used in our government and asked if anybody knew about it. Another resident raised his hand and explained the judicial, executive, and legislative branches and how they worked. We had learned this two months before in class, and he remembered it perfectly. Our teacher was sitting a few feet behind him (I don’t think he knew), smiling and nodding her head.
She was so proud of him. She is so proud of him. She is so proud of us. She doesn’t care if we don’t draw perfect lines with amazing shadowing; she cares if we take our time and put all our effort into drawing.
If we are caught up with our classwork, we get to go on a field trip every Friday. Just today, we went to a nursing home to read our poetry. I read a slam poem I had written. I’m not sure if the older residents understood it, but their smiles told me they appreciated the effort.
I’m not planning on winning this essay contest, and even if I do, I won’t know, because e-mail to our group home is often blocked. I just wanted people to know about my teacher.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.