Starfish Story Series: Part 1

Kamal is a ninth grade student in the Metro Detroit area. In the first few weeks of his Algebra 1 class he turned in two out of about ten assignments. Those two assignments being the syllabus and the in class ice breaker done on the first day of class.

Ms. Maria is a City Year, AmeriCorps member serving in Kamal’s school.  Concerned because of Kamal’s lack of effort, she decided to get to know him.  During their first conversation, Kamal informed Ms. Maria that he had attempted to do all of the algebra assignments. However, he had not completed them because he just did not know how.  Kamal even showed Ms. Maria the half completed assignments that he carried with him in his folder.

That day Kamal agreed to have lunch with Ms. Maria.  The two meet in the City Year room at the school. As they ate lunch Kamal explained to Ms. Maria why he hadn’t turned in any of his assignments. It was quite simple. Kamal didn’t want to turn in incomplete and incorrect work for fear that the teacher would think he was stupid.

By the end of the first of their many lunch discussions Kamal had informed Ms. Maria of his past math failures, and lack of ability to learn algebra.

In spite of Kamal’s lack of enthusiasm Ms. Maria decided to continue to offer him support in his Algebra class.  If she noticed that he seemed disengaged she would make an effort to try to get him back on task.  If she noticed him struggling she would offer her assistance.

Eventually, Kamal began to seek assistance from Ms. Maria as well as from his teacher. During his lunch period he would even eat in the City Year room so that he could get extra assistance with homework and to have lessons further explained to him.

By the end of Kamal’s Algebra 1 class, he had completed and turned in all of his assignments. His test and quiz scores had increased.  Most importantly his attitude about himself and his abilities had changed.  Kamal had walked into his Algebra 1 class knowing that he was bad at math. As he walked away from his final exam he looked at Ms. Maria and said, “I just killed that exam.”




Written by Aundrea Stokes

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