Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
"Once had a student get a full ride to a well-known university for basketball. He signed his letter of intent then stopped coming to school. His other teachers and I called home at least once a week and left messages until the number eventually stopped working. Fast forward to a week before graduation. His mom came up to school, screaming about the fact that he wasn't going to graduate and that he has to so he can play basketball, etc. She claimed that since he had already signed the letter of intent, that meant that he would just graduate regardless of what he did his senior year. It was the most surreal thing I ever heard. Last I heard he was selling dope and in a gang, which is really sad.
Had another student who lacked any amount of confidence, but was willing to work really hard at just about anything. This kid stayed after school with me every single day for three years, to work on her writing skills. She ended up graduating second in her class, got a scholarship to a really good school, finished undergrad in three years, and is now going for her MBA (which is fully paid for by the college). I talk about her to all of my classes because she is the epitome of what determination and hard work can do. She is also now my goddaughter after she and her mom asked me to be during her senior year of high school."
"I am a teacher but this is about my sister, not my students. In her early teens, she was not popular and basically relied on me for social interactions. When I graduated, my family moved to a different state, and she finally hit puberty hard. She pretty much blossomed over the summer. She became head cheerleader and valedictorian of her class of 400 kids. She received a full scholarship, plus all living expenses, books, and $1,500 a semester for spending money for any college she wanted to go to. She wanted to be a bioengineer. We were all incredibly proud of her.
She chose to go to school at the same school as the rest of my siblings. It was a small four-year college out in the middle of nowhere. But my siblings were there, so we understood. However, she had a boyfriend. A boyfriend who derailed everything. He believed women were inferior and from the moment she went to school, he started making her life unbearable. She ended up leaving school and moving in with him, his sister, and his sister's baby in a one-room apartment. They slept in the living room on a futon because the sister needed a room for her and the baby. My sister was the only one working. She worked part-time in fast food. She sold her car to pay for her boyfriend's car which she was not allowed to drive. He treated her like scum.
She ended up joining the service to make more money. They got married so he could have benefits. They lived in different states and he spent all her money. On a visit, she ended up pregnant. She had their son without him and he stayed in the other state getting ready for when she was to be discharged. She ended up having to go to Iraq and sent their son to stay with his father, her husband. When she returned from Iraq, she found that he had cleaned out their bank account and was living with another woman whom her son called mom.
She divorced him but gave him full custody of their child. She gets every other weekend and some holidays with her own son. The judge was furious with her because during the proceedings it was proven that he had been abusive to both her and his sister, including attacking his sister in front of the judge. She asked for her ex-husband to have full custody so she could move on with her life.
Now she has remarried to a wealthy guy and finished college and is now a social worker. Yep, she gave up her own kid to tell others how to raise theirs. She is constantly posting on Facebook about her beautiful home and all the trips and things that she does.
My family is always telling me what a successful person she is. I feel that if you are willing to sacrifice your child to a known abuser so you can have a better life, you are a loser."
"One of my good friends in high school was brilliant. He wasn't valedictorian, but he was up there. Graduated with honors, beta club and NHS member, the works. He got a scholarship for a full ride to arguably the most well-known university in my state, which is huge because his family is dirt poor, so poor that he didn't get a car until he was 18, and only because his uncle sent him money to pay for it. He said he's gonna study aerospace engineering like his uncle.
He met a girl at a football game, they started drinking. He got involved with weed and other stuff with help from said girl. So involved, in fact, that when I gave him a ride from our hometown back to school at the end of Christmas break, he was transporting at least one lb of weed, and made me an unknowing mule.
A little while later, the girl from before was driving his UNINSURED car and hit a motorcyclist. Not only that, but she also ran away from the scene. Cops caught her, she went to jail, and his car was impounded. Later, he found out it was totaled after he paid to get it out. Since he sunk all his money into weed and his gaming pc, he couldn't afford a new car or any of the fees and tickets from the accident.
Shortly after that, he got kicked out of university because of, you guessed it, all that weed. Scholarship revoked.
He now waits tables at the Logan's Roadhouse here at home. He still has no car from what I know. I quit talking to him after he refused to pay me in actual money for driving him three hours back to his university when I had class the next morning back at mine. He tried to pay me in pot instead of something I could actually use, like gas money."
"I had a student named Kirstin. She was a 4.0 student while most of the other students were barely passing. This was in a low-income, rural area where no one cared much for academics.
I wrote her a letter of recommendation and she ended up going to UC Berkely, graduating with a 3.85 GPA. She was a biology major.
Several years passed and I ran into her in our hometown waitressing at the Waffle House. Actually, I think she was a hostess. The same job she had when she was 16.
I don't know her situation, but I felt rather depressed after seeing that. We still talk every once in a great while on Facebook."
"I had a student for two years (junior and senior) and we did not get off on the right foot. He made some suggestive remarks and I'm a young teacher. I went to my administration to have them talk to him and he was convinced I didn't like him because of his race.
I pushed for him to actually do work and didn't put up with his crap. I spelled out my expectations for each assignment before it began and I expected my students to attempt the assignment and slowly become better at their skills as the semester progressed. This student retaliated by not doing work, like literally not doing the essays (50% of the grade) on his tests and just flat out not doing classwork or homework.
I did everything I could to rectify the situation. We spoke together with the counselor, brought in family members, had multiple one-on-one conversations, created behavior plans, the works. He ended up failing junior year and was on course to fail his senior year.
A month before graduation, the day he got his cap and gown, he pulled the counselor and me aside and said he wanted to graduate and he'd do what he could to pass my class. He busted his butt that last month and ended up with a 69.1. I had seen such an amazing turn around in him I had no issues bumping his grade to a 69.5, which rounded up to a 70. I gave him a hug at graduation and told him I expected great things from him. By this point, he and I were good; there was mutual respect. I learned six months later he had a job at a local stitching company and was doing well.
I was so incredibly proud and happy for him.
He's now awaiting trial for murder in a 'street pharmaceutical' deal gone wrong."
"Ex-college professor here. For some of my students, I'd define graduating as succeeding amazingly. Here are some of my favorites:
One kid had been in a terrible car accident and had a traumatic brain injury. All of the odds were stacked against him. He walked with a heavy limp and still had some memory challenges. My standing rule was that so long as you did the work in my class, I would give you as much extra help as you did the work for. He did an unbelievable ton of work to keep up; we both did. We'd meet and go over his notes and make sure he hadn't misremembered anything, re-explain things that had slipped, and he always put in more than full effort. I can still remember hearing him coming up the hall with his distinctive gait. Few years on, he graduated - hurrah! - and also was in incredible physical condition. He was so determined to rehab that he walked everywhere; I'd see him miles from campus working his way along the side of the road. He barely limped at all the last I saw him and was sun-bronzed and confident and smiling. It did my heart good.
Another student was ex-military, dealing with PTSD and being a single parent, while also working and making it through college. I can't say how much I respected this guy. He got through, got out, got a good job and his kids are heading toward college. I still hear from him from time to time.
I used to love to see another of my students tearing into class still wearing his Blockbuster shirt (yep, been a while!). He married young, think he had a kid, but was making his way through our small local branch college and working at the same time. He had a wonderful passion for his studies; one of my fondest memories from my time teaching college was him discussing a Wordsworth poem in our advanced poetry class. He was just animated with joy and excitement and understanding of the beauty of the thing. He graduated and I hope he's living a happy life.
I only know of one promising student who, through no fault of his own, never got to go forth into the bright world. He's the first person I ever knew who died so young and so full of promise, and the phone call telling me remains one of the most terrible moments of my life."
"One of my favorite former students was a straight up genius. She was writing beautiful papers in 9th grade that were college-level insightful. She topped every state-wide academic competition we let her compete in; she just generally was killing it. She was also a genuinely lovely human, always nice and helpful and polite. She got a full scholarship to a fantastic college and I was so excited to find out what kind of incredible things she'd accomplish.
Found out last week that she dropped out during her freshman year and works at Pizza Hut, spending most of her time sending out Snaps about getting high. If that's what makes her happy, then I'm happy for her, but she could literally do ANYTHING she wanted to with her amazing brain and attitude. So I hope that's what she really wants to do."
"I was a student that always did well in school. I graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA, I went to a community college for a few years and made a 3.5 GPA. Then disaster struck. I went suddenly blind for a year. I had two severe vitreous hemorrhages, one in each eye. My vision went from 'OK' to 'legally blind' in half an hour and the doctors couldn't do anything about it. I ended up dropping out of school, not being able to work or see or anything.
Eventually, it healed enough, and I wanted to go back to school, but my mom lost her job. I finally found a full-time job and did that for a few years. I started going blind again a few years later, this time cataracts. I had almost no vision for two years before the doctor did surgery now they could see into my eyes after the surgery. I had developed glaucoma because the cataracts were so bad.
I have permanent damage to my vision, along with a million other problems, and now live on disability. I've been homeless the last two years. I went from being a really smart kid who defied the odds (I was a miracle baby as well), to a broke, fat, old guy with PTSD who can't even find a place to live.
I don't feel sorry for myself. If anything, I'm angry.
I'm hoping to turn everything around in a few years."
"I once had a student who goofed off, didn't do his work, but we had an okay relationship. He messed around but he wasn't mean to me or others, he just didn't want to be in school. He resented being 'forced' to go to school when he could work with his buddy on cars in his buddy's garage like they'd been doing since they were kids. We had a lot of talks with him ('Are you going work in your friend's garage the rest of your life or what?'). We even talked to a counselor, other teachers, his mom...and he still failed my class, terribly actually.
It was my first year of teaching. Take a breath and reset.
Guess who bopped into my room on the first day of school? He took summer school, passed the summer school version of my class, no problem. He wanted to own his own garage and be a licensed mechanic! He'd talked a lot of talk the previous year (how much money he could make with his friend, etc), so I was happy for him and asked him about his plans, but didn't hold my breath.
He kept coming by and keeps passing his classes.
I watched him walk across the stage in May; he was the first person in his family to earn a high school degree, and I couldn't be prouder."
"A friend of my sister's got super depressed during his sophomore year. He stopped going to school and basically spent over a year in bed.
But he was really smart. Like, stupid smart. He explained faster than light travel & time travel to me when I was like 14, using a slice of pizza and animal crackers.
So, he applied to a smaller, in-state college and said he was homeschooled. The school asked for proof (diploma or GED) but let him enroll while his 'mom tried to find it in the attic storage.' He immediately excelled and scored very highly in advanced coursework. The school continued to half-heartedly ask for his diploma and he kept deflecting. He graduated with Latin honors and moved to a different school for his master's.
This time, they either assumed he MUST have provided proof to the previous school, or maybe his GRE scores blew them out of the water, but the 'no diploma' problem sort of disappears.
The man now has his PhD and his wife has hers as well. They live out west and are producing little geniuses.
I've been teaching for 14 years and have seen my share of dropouts. None has had any success even halfway close to this guy's. He beat his depression and the system. Good for him."
"I spoke to a high school teacher recently who told me how she had this one Golden Class about ten years ago, and in this class there was one special girl; kind to everyone, popular without being mean, trained horses in her spare time, supportive and loving parents, and a straight-A student who wanted to become a vet. 'I see a lot of girls who want to be vets, but this one had what it takes.' The teacher said that if someone put a knife to her throat and asked her to rank all the students she ever had in a 30-year career, this girl would be at the head of the line.
That girl is now serving life in prison for killing her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend, chopping her up with a hacksaw, and burying the parts in the woods."
"I'm a middle school teacher, retired. I taught at a school located in a really rough area. I mostly taught G&T (gifted and talented). I had a 7th-grade girl whose strength was math, but she came from a very bad situation. Her mother was an addict and took no interest in her daughter's education. She was often homeless, I'm sure school breakfast and lunch were her only meals and luckily a church fed her on weekends. Then she got caught selling illegal substances to older boys and was on the verge of being sent to a remedial school where she would have to be with the worst of the worst.
The assistant principal and I were able to get her another chance. We kept a close watch on her and she was able to go on to a decent high school. I kept in touch with her through her teachers; she was usually in some sort of trouble, but always seemed to get by.
One day, years later, I got an announcement in the mail. She was a salutatorian at a prestigious private university where she had earned a degree in mathematics. I have tons of stories of promising children who ended up in prison or an early violent death, it was great to have a real success."
"Not a student but a classmate in high school that all the teachers at our reunions are always in awe about. Jenna moved to our upper-middle class town from the big city in middle school. She was a nice enough girl, but she didn't fit in and started hanging out with 'the loser crowd.' She got pregnant in 11th grade and her mom sent her off to one of those Bible summer camps. It was well known throughout the school that she gave the baby up for adoption. To say the senior year was rough for her socially was an understatement.
When I would come home on break from school, I saw her around working cashier jobs and going to the local state school part-time. Her mom moved away, so she was on her own the day she turned 18.
She came to the 10-year reunion and it turns out she joined the Air Force, so we exchanged emails (I'm in the Air Force too) and ping each other about once a year. The 20-year reunion rolled around and our former principal, a retired Marine, just couldn't stop talking about how he really 'had faith she would turn her circumstance around,' which is code for 'thought she'd never make it in life.'
She's now an officer and working at the Pentagon on the senior staff of some important generals. She made below the zone promotions her whole career and is getting ready to be promoted to Colonel next year (which is one step below one-star general).
You could see our former principal just completely engaged while talking to her when previously probably he only talked to her when he was suspending her from school. I know everyone expected her to turn out like a bad episode of Teen Mom, but she really turned that one around for sure."