A conversation I had with one of my students (B) during math office hours on Thursday keeps replaying in my head. He’s one of my A students who, for several months, was aiming for (and earning) 100% in my class. He was struggling with an exercise on KhanAcademy, not because he didn’t know it, but because he was going too fast and kept hitting “check answer” before checking his work or rereading the problem.
B: I give up. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m just going to fail. I don’t care. I’m not going to college.
Me: (Having spent the last twenty minutes telling him I refused to let him give up.) You’re a mess right now. I’m done with you. You’re going to finish this with me next week and I’m not letting you walk away until you reach mastery, but right now I’m done with you. (B laughs at me.)
B’s friend: Yeah, I’m done with you too. You are too going to college. You told me you’re going to USC.
B: No I’m not. I don’t care about my grades. I don’t want to go to college. This is too hard and it just gets harder.
Me: College was the best four years of my life. I got to study whatever I wanted and live with my friends.
B’s friend: Yeah, you don’t live with your parents and you can throw parties whenever you want.
B: I don’t want to go to college; it’s just going to get harder.
Me: I think you’d like my college. Look it up. Click on academics.
B: (Looking at the list of academics on my college’s website) What did you study?
Me: A lot. I mostly took courses in computer science and anthropology, but I also took courses in environmental studies, mathematics, chemistry, art history, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender studies, Spanish, and a few more.
B: If you studied all that, why are you a teacher?
Me: Because this is what I want to do. This is what I enjoy doing.
B: But you studied all of that!
Me: Yes, I studied all of that because that is what I wanted to study. And now I am a teacher because that is what I want to be.
B: (Does an image search of my college and turns the computer to his friend.): This is where I’m going to college. Look at my school.