As an educator, I see someone who has learned to put forth minimal effort and who has internalized the assessments of a few dozen teachers over the years who have rated his intelligence as below average.
I’m guessing that Miguel’s thirst for knowledge dried up years ago. He’s been passed along and shuffled in and out of classes and pretty much bored with the whole thing.
As a fellow human being I see a boy who was not given what I was given. The messages he has received from family, friends, school and society are very different from the ones that I did. My advantages in approaching school and making my way through it outweigh his by a lot.
I have valued education right from the start because that was what was drummed into, and expected of me.
He has struggled in ways that I cannot identify with because he has been given different messages all of his young life.
Part of my job as a teacher is to evaluate performance and gauge understanding, but it is no less important to seek out potential and maybe, just maybe, generate a few sparks that will light a fire.
In the context of a very small class over the last few weeks, Miguel has discovered an interest in the world around him. Whether that interest develops into something more substantial I cannot say, but it has been a pure pleasure to see this young man participate in a class instead of just warm a seat in it, as I suspect he has done from most of his educational life.
This summer I have a class with only 14 students, and we’re together for five hours a day. Ask any student who ever was how exciting they’d find five hours of history during the summer (or any season for that matter) and the response would likely be, “Cruel and unusual punishment.”