When Katherine turned in her first assignment in ENG 97/107, I was shocked. The assignment was to write a page of free writing explaining something they were good at and how they got good at it. Most students wrote about a page–messy and full of errors, maybe, but they pretty much did the assignment. Katherine, on the other hand, turned in a page with four half sentences triple spaced. I’d never seen such a lack of knowledge about writing. Her reading ability was better, but she had done very little reading in her adult life. Additionally, she mostly watched TV with her extensive free time and was rather overweight. This was a student, I thought, who was never going to make it through college.
Katherine worked incredibly hard all semester. She adopted the mindset of our On Course textbook and took to heart author Skip Downing’s ideas about taking personal responsibility. Downing writes, “When people keep doing what they’ve been doing even when it doesn’t work, they are acting as Victims. When people change their beliefs and behaviours to create the best results they can, they are acting as Creators.” This became Katherine’s mantra. She told me she was going to stop being a Victim and start being a Creator. The summer after that first semester, she set a goal of reading fifty books. She got through thirty books and then as the summer drew to a close, met her goal by reading twenty children’s books.
She repeated ENG 97/107 in the fall to keep building her basic skills, and the second semester, she was an inspiration to her classmates. She gently called her classmates out when they were falling into Victim behaviors or attitudes, and she modeled living like a Creator. Not only did she continue building her writing skills and adding more and more books to her “read” pile, but she also went on to lose almost one hundred pounds and began volunteering for the Cherry Festival and the Film Festival. I even saw her on TV at a BATA meeting as she began engaging more and more actively with her community and the issues she cares about.
Katherine often stops in to say hello and update me on how she’s doing. When she tells me about challenges she has encountered, she always explains that she is tackling those problems as a Creator. She just told me that she is working hard in ENG 111/11 and has registered for ENG 112/12 for spring. She also told me that she is taking Psychology 101 this semester, and to prepare she found a psych textbook over the summer and read all 500+ pages before the semester even started.
Katherine inspires me everyday. She has shown me that with the right attitude, good support, and tons of hard work, even a student starting at the very beginning can succeed. And she reminds me that I should never write anyone off.