Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Practice makes perfect

Back in 2000, during my first year of full-time teaching with the CPS, I constantly fought with students over the stupidest things. One argument I remember having was with an Auto Shop student over his resume. I demanded he fix a couple of small errors. He didn't want to.

"This is one assignment where you cannot have a single mistake," I said. "Not a missing comma, not a poor choice of words, nothing."

"Why?" he said. "Why does it have to be perfect?"

"Because if an employer has several people under consideration for a job, and your resume has a couple of errors, you won't get the job," I said. "The person with a perfect resume has an advantage over you."

"I don't believe you," he said.

What do you say when a teenager doesn't believe you?

You say: "I don't care. Revise it!"

Oh yeah, he was a stubborn kid, and at one point that school year, I threw away something of his right into the trash can. On purpose. One thing students really hate is retrieving things from the trash can. I personally don't care, I go through the trash all the time, saying stuff like, "Oops, I must have thrown away your absence note," and they're like, "Yuck, I don't want it anymore. Leave it in there."

I don't have the resume arguments with students anymore. Maybe I'm a little more believable these days. In fact, this is why I think I'm getting a little better at this thing called teaching:

Today, I spent my lunch period helping a current Auto Shop student revise his resume. He actually came to me with it after class, asked if I could take a look at it. Of course I wrote all over it, then we opened up the file, and I went at it, adding and subtracting at will.

What impresses me about some of my students is that, well, they have some cool things to throw on their resumes. This guy's a junior, maybe 17 years old, and he already has four years of work experience. He used to work at an uncle's auto repair shop, logging in 40-hour weeks during summers. Then, he joined the football team. Recently, he took on another job, at a DJ service, and he works 30 hours a week. After school.

Would it be excusable if he didn't always get his homework done? If he sometime fell asleep in class? Maybe. Thing is, so far at least, he has been a great student, with no absences and an A- average. He's even willing to stick around during lunch to do something that I couldn't convince my students to do seven years ago: Make something perfect.

As he left, he actually apologized. "Sorry for taking up your entire lunch period," he said.

"No worries," I said, thinking, it was one of my more enjoyable lunch periods this school year.

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