No Student is “Too Dumb” for Learning and Succeeding at Oxbow

When I started working with Chase he let me know up front that he was dumb and wasn’t planning on graduating from high school.  He wasn’t being defiant or belligerent……just stating the facts as he saw them.  I worked on English and History for a little while with Chase in a group setting and I could see that he was much more capable than he knew.

I was asked to tutor Chase, one-on-one about 3 months ago.  We started to practice actual reading and finding answers to put on worksheets.  Chase still didn’t plan on doing anything except the minimum to meet his goal for the week.

During the month of February, Oxbow formed a basketball team to play in a league here in the community.  I attended one of the games and was visiting with the man who was running the scoreboard.  He asked me if Chase did well in school because he played a smart game of basketball and really used his head.

When we got to school the next day I told Chase what this man had said just from observing him on the basketball court.  He was a little shocked and a lot pleased.  He started to work a little more independently and a little harder at his schoolwork.

There was a point where Chase became a little frustrated and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong – he was doing great in school.  After a few conversations I found out that he was regretting not taking an actual interest in school and his abilities before this point in time.  He felt like he was so far behind that he would never be able to get caught up and be where he’s supposed to be academically.  We made a deal and talked honestly about the work that it would require for him to get to that point, or at least close to it, before his time here at Oxbow is gone.  We set some goals and went to work.

He did really well finishing up the concepts he was already working on but then we started World Geography.  It was new and a little daunting.  Chase looked at it, threw his hands up and said, “This is too hard.  I can’t get this.”  I wrote that quote down, dated it and had Chase sign it.  I told him I would bring him a reward if he would at least try, work hard and get to a point where he could do the worksheets  on his own and take the test on his own and score above 90%.  He didn’t think it was possible, and honestly, I didn’t know if it would happen before he left Oxbow.  He’d never done his own work or his own reading up to this point.  However, we continued to work and practice and just last Wednesday Chase brought a concept to me that was finished except for the last two pages.  I hadn’t helped him at all and he’d never taken work home before so I was a little skeptical.

I looked over the work and gave him a testing pass with the conditions that he had to score above 95% or he’d be required to finish those last two pages and all pages of all concepts from that point on.  He assured me that he knew the material and went down to get the test.

He came upstairs and worked on that test, using the notes that he had taken.  When the grading slip came upstairs I braced myself for some frustration and shut down on his part.  He looked at the paper and had a look on his face that I couldn’t really read but I was ready for anything.  Anything except the 97% he had achieved!

I couldn’t have been prouder if he had been my own child.  He was on cloud nine.  I got out the little sticky note with “This is too hard” written on it and we attached that grade slip to the note.

Chase has increased his goal by one concept per week and has met that goal, is taking concepts home each night and on weekends and is working more and more independently on school nights.  A little practice, some positive reinforcement and a belief in himself and his abilities have made a huge difference.

I hope that as Chase leaves here he feels confident and secure in his abilities and will apply what he’s learned as he works toward a high school diploma. – Cindy Johansen, Teacher, Oxbow Academy