High School Teacher Inspires Failing Student

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. How do you reach a 19-year-old senior in high school that seems to be using high school as a "safe house"? He's failing every subject, but insists he's going to conquer the world of molecular genetics. As a teacher, I've developed some rapport with him as he's taking three of my science classes.

A. You may be the teacher who will inspire this student to work harder and become successful. I hope you've been able to help him sufficiently so that he isn't failing your classes, because he surely has an interest in science.

Because his grades are so poor, he probably won't be accepted into a four-year college. Even if accepted, he'd be unlikely to pass college courses. Nevertheless, if you can encourage him to attend a community college where all students are accepted, he could possibly find some motivation and success. More than one scientist has gotten a late start at a community college and, once motivated, continued on to more advanced education. While he may never qualify to be a scientist, if he at least begins his education in that direction, he may be able to become a scientific research assistant or a paraprofessional in a science area. Maturity, in combination with an inspiring teacher often makes a difference. It's even possible, that if he gets his act together, he could eventually complete a four-year college degree and become a science teacher to eventually inspire other young people who have lost their way.

Thanks for your good work in helping young people learn.