When I taught Spanish at Richard J. Daley College on the south side, the department sure made me earn my money. They got more than their money’s worth from me if you ask me. The ideal size for a Spanish class should be somewhere around fifteen students, but less would be even better. At Daley College, my small class had twenty-five students and my large class had forty-five. I was constantly correcting homework, quizzes, and exams. When I have such a large enrollment, I usually don’t notice individual stundents unless they are performing extremely well or extremely poorly.
One day, Lois came into my office during office hours. I was surprised since students do not normally visit me during office hours. I would like to attribute this to the fact that I’m a great Spanish teacher, but the sad reality is that students who really need my help are either too busy or too lazy to visit me for help. I knew of Lois that semester because she had failed every quiz thus far. At least she came to me for help early in the semester. She was an African-American single mother. As I soon found out, she was also on welfare, but the state required her to take classes or lose her welfare benefits. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be in college. She said she was really trying, but I didn’t believe her. She said Spanish was too hard for her. She had not completed even one homework assignment. She gave me a lot reasons for her poor performance, but I told her that those were just excuses. She told me that she had no time to do her homework. “What’s the next item on your agenda?” I asked her. Well, she had to pick up her children from school in two hours. I told her to sit down and start doing her homework. If she had any problems, I would answer her questions. Slowly but surely, she finished her first homework assignment. Sure, I had to help her, but she caught on rather quickly. She didn’t think she was smart enough to do the homework. She came to my office a few more times to do her homework and soon she was doing all the homework without my help. She started passing the quizzes and eventually earned a B- for final grade of the course. I was quite proud of her. She was only defeating herself until I showed her that she had the capacity to do college work. I’m sure she eventually graduated from college because she was so determined after that semester.