I gave my "opportunity cost" speech (see below for details). Kids seemed impressed. Some of them at least.
One kid in particular seemed affected. Here's his story: He lives with his sister. Where are the parents? Who knows, but I think maybe in another state. He works most nights, at McDonald's. He has about a 50% in my class, with most of those points gained from small-group assignments.
After class, he came up to me and said, "I thought about what you said about scholarships and all that. And I want you to do me a favor."
"Can you please make sure I do all my work? Can you force me?"
"I don't know," I said. "There's only so much I can do. But here's one thing you can do: Read this book this weekend. We have a test Monday." I pointed to an unopened copy of The Stranger on his desk.
"Yeah," he said. "But I need you to push me to succeed."
It's always nice to know kids want to succeed. It's nice to think I can make an impact. It's nice to hope that, with some pushing, they can overcome the obstacles and roadblocks they face.
Well ... today was the test on the novel. I just graded the tests. My new hard-worker scored a 23%, by far the lowest in the class. In fact, even with his score, the class average was 86%.
It would be nice if the desire to succeed were enough.